The Top 100 Movies on Netflix – January 2019
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.
Though it doesn’t quite meet the highs of 2015’s The Force Awakens or the Original Trilogy, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves that a spin-off in the universe of Star Wars can stand strong on its own. Rogue One tells the exciting story of Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, who joins forces with leaders of the Resistance in an effort to rescue her father and stop the dastardly plans of the Galactic Empire, who are in the process of building a super-weapon that may be familiar to any fans of A New Hope. Taking place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One manages to build onto the original Star Wars tales with its action-packed espionage tale, introducing new characters and even featuring a couple cameos from Original Trilogy characters that fans will love. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s essential for Star Wars fans everywhere.
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.
The directorial debut from writer Taylor Sheridan, the concluding chapter in his frontier trilogy that included films Sicario and Hell or High Water, three stories unconnected to each other but with similar themes about rural America. Wind River stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a US Fish and Wildlife Reserve officer and an FBI agent, respectively, whose paths cross on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming following the discovery of a body and questions surrounding whether it was a homicide. When the autopsy reveals the woman found dead was also raped, Jane Banner (Olsen) arrives to investigate, teaming with Officer Lambert (Renner) to find the culprit. Quickly, the two realize they may be in over their head while trying to solve the mystery of the woman’s death.
One of the most original and brilliant horror films of the past decade, It Follows is perfect for any fan looking for some spooky entertainment to bring some fright into your night. Made for just $2 million, everything about this film—the acting, the direction, the cinematography, and the music—help to create an atmosphere that makes this film simultaneously unsettling and bone-chilling. The premise of the film is simple, but effective: a teenage girl, Jay, finds herself followed around by a supernatural entity after she has a sexual encounter with her boyfriend. The entity is visible only to Jay, and can take the form of anyone around her, from a close friend to a complete stranger. A fantastic score, an incredible cold open, and an ending so chilling it’ll stay with you for weeks make this a memorable experience, one not to be missed.
This 2008 biographical film follows Harvey Milk, who was a major gay rights activist in California and the first openly gay person ever elected to hold office in that state. Directed by Gus Van Sant (director of Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester), and written by Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar), the film tells the story of Milk throughout the 70s until his death in 1978. The fil;m has been critically lauded as a return to form for Sant, and both Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk and the script by Black went onto win Oscars in 2009. The film co-stars Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Alison Pill, and Rogue One‘s Diego Luna, and is absolutely worth watching for its riveting, surprisingly sensitive look at this man and his political and real-world opponents.
National Treasure is, in our eyes, the ultimate adventure film, an ode to Indiana Jones that might not live up to the greatness of its predecessors, but manages to create a historial heist movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire runtime. The film follows Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage, in one of his most famous roles), a historian and treasure hunter whose grandfather told him the story of the fabled national treasure held secret by the Founding Fathers, a rumor that Gates, now an adult, continues to chase. On an expedition with his colleague Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and his friend Riley (Justin Bartha), Gates discovers a clue that leads the group to believe the next hint is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Betrayed by Ian and his men and laughed out of the offices of the National Archives, Gates realizes he has no choice but to do the only thing possible to save the day: steal the Declaration of Independence.
There’s plenty to critique about Adam Sandler’s career, but most people seem to agree his early films are pretty solid efforts. Though never a critical darling, Happy Gilmore is one of his fans’ favorite films of his, thanks to the absurd and outlandish hijinks that occur throughout the film. Sandler stars as Happy Gilmore, an aspiring hockey player who is really only good at one thing: slapshots. After a failed hockey tryout, he learns his grandmother owes back taxes of nearly $300,000, he begins hustling golfers at a local course, thanks to his powerful swing. When Gilmore meets Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers), a club pro, he offers to tutor Gilmore to earn him a spot on the PGA Pro Tour. Fueled by the desire to win back his grandmother’s foreclosed house, he accepts, but will face massive trouble when pro-golfer Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) makes it his goal to get Gilmore kicked off the tour. The film also stars Julie Bowen, Francis Bay, and memorable cameos from Ben Stiller and Bob Barker.
No one can deny that Kevin Smith’s career has been nothing if not a mixed bag of successes and failures, but if there’s one film worth revisiting again and again in his filmography, it’s his theatrical debut: Clerks. The 1994 indie black-and-white comedy follows a day in the life of two store clerks, Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson). When Dante is called into work on his day off, he’ll find that everything seems to go wrong. The lock on the shutters of the convenience store where he works is filled with gum, the customers are rude and angry, and he gets in a fight with his girlfriend while on the job. From a dead customer to an impromptu game of hockey on the roof, Dante’s day will be full of unfortunate surprises, always followed with the same simple reminder: he wasn’t even supposed to be here today.
Most people probably didn’t see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs becoming a critical darling, in addition to its massive box office success, but that’s exactly what happened when the film was released in 2009. Loosely based on the children’s book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a failed inventor who thinks he has the answer to the town’s crisis. He builds a machine that converts water into food, and becomes a local hero when tasty treats fall from the sky like rain. But when the machine spins out of control and threatens to bury the whole world under giant mounds of food, Flint finds he may have bitten off more than he can chew. The film was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, creators of the cult hit Clone High, who later went on to direct critically-acclaimed films like The Lego Movie and both 21 and 22 Jump Street.
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.
The fourth narrative-based film from acclaimed director Ava DuVernay (Selma) promised to be a major milestone in film for multiple reasons. With the filming of A Wrinkle in Time, DuVernay became the first African American woman to direct a film with a budget totalling nine figures, and the first African American director of a film to make more than $100 million at the box office. Despite these historical precedents, A Wrinkle in Time is no perfect film. Though it’s visually stunning, the novel is a difficult work to adapt to the big screen. While we enjoyed it, it’s definitely something to keep an open mind on before diving into such a divisive film.
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.
A movie so huge it’s still playing in some theaters eight months after its release, Black Panther is one of the best Marvel movies to date. A critical darling and a massive box office success, Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa, the king of the African nation of Wakanda who steps up to fill his father’s shoes after King T’Chaka dies during the events of Civil War. To the rest of the world, Wakanda is a poor third-world nation that barely scrapes by on their own, but secretly, thanks to a meteor containing vibranium crashing into their country thousands of years prior, they’ve become one of the richest and most-technologically advanced countries on the planet. When T’Challa’s rule is challenged by a relative who grew up outside of Wakanda, they’ll have to fight it out to figure out which gets to rule.
The film that helped to escalate the careers of both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting is one of the quintessential films of the 1990s. Directed by Gus Van Zant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho), the film follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a young man with a genius-level IQ who works as a janitor at MIT. One afternoon, while solving a difficult math problem designed for graduate students, he’s discovered by Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), a professor who helps to bail Will out of jail after he’s arrested for attacking a Boston police officer. With the police department’s permission, Lambeau makes a deal to score him a lesser sentence, albeit under the condition he seeks help from therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).
Based on the real-life experiment that occurred in 1971, The Stanford Prison Experiment tells the story of Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup), who conducts a controversial psychology experiment with his students in order to determine whether or not the personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior between them. Zimbardo selects fifteen male students to participate in a 14-day prison simulation to take roles as prisoners or guards. For their work in the experiment, they receive $15 per day (nearly $100 in 2018 money). It doesn’t take long for the proceedings to get out of hand, of course, and before you know it, both the prisoners and Zimbardo himself become abusive towards the mock-prisoners. Intense and hard to watch, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a must-see.
You need to be prepared to handle some graphic content with Raw, a 2016 critically-acclaimed French-Belgian horror film that garnered controversy from some critics for its unrelenting visceral gore. The film follows Justine, a lifelong vegetarian who is just beginning her first semester at veterinarian school as a legacy student. When brought to a hazing ceremony for new students, Justine feels uncomfortable until running into her older sister Alexia, another student at the school, who shows her photos of students—including her parents—covered in blood. As the hazing continues, Justine begins to experience cravings for meat after being forced to devour a rabbit kidney. Those cravings begin to push Justine further into grotesque experiments that will churn your stomach and leave you haunted for nights.
Directed by Francis Lee in his feature debut, God’s Own Country is a haunting tale of love and loss in the English countryside. The film follows Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), a young man who lives on his family farm with his father Martin, and his grandmother Deidre. Johnny takes care of most of the farm by himself, his father unable to assist after experiencing a stroke and his grandmother aged out of the farm life. Johnny’s life is a mess, drinking heavily and having sexual encounters with men in his spare time. When Johnny’s actions result in the loss of a calf, Martin hires help in the form of Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), a Romanian farm hand who is initially treated harshly by Johnny. When Johnny refers to Gheorghe by a slur, the two men find themselves in a fight that quickly turns sexual. With the nature of their relationship, Johnny must learn quickly who he is, less he face the consequences of a broken heart. The film was critically-acclaimed upon its release last year.
In the aftermath of the Disney Renaissance, the animation department was a bit lost. Some of their films were outright disasters either critically (Home on the Range, a film that basically doesn’t exist) or commercially (Treasure Planet), while other oddball entries have their set of fans. The Emperor’s New Groove is one such film; though it may not feature the love and heart of something like The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, it’s a comically-zany film that is genuinely hilarious. When Emperor Kuzco (the voice of David Spade) is transformed into a llama by his advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt, having a ball) in order to get him out of the ruler’s seat, he must work together with Pacha (John Goodman) to get him back on the throne before being killed once and for all.
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.
An American Tail is a surprisingly-dark animated children’s movie (although one with a happy ending, in case you need to know that going in). It tells the story of a young Russian mouse named Fievel whose family emigrates to America in the late 1800s. They and the other immigrants have heard that “there are no cats in America,” but the reality turns out to be more dangerous.
Considered an achievement in filmmaking and nominated for six Academy Awards in 2015, Boyhood tells the story of Mason Evans Jr., from 2002 to 2013, as he grows from a six-year-old boy to a young adult headed to college, following each year in his life over its nearly-three hour runtime. Director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, the aforementioned Before Midnight) is no secret to playing with time, as he did with the Before trilogy, and Boyhood follows a similar premise. The film shot each year from 2002 to 2013, essentially being written as the crew and cast grew up around the film. The child actor cast as Mason, Ellar Coltrane, was seven when the film began shooting, and was 19 when the film wrapped in 2013. Also starring in the film: Before‘s Ethan Hawke as Mason’s father, and Patricia Arquette as his mother, who won an Oscar for her performance.
Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray’s second time working together on a film came together in Stripes, the 1981 comedy about joining the army. In Stripes, we get our first taste of the pairing that would be Reitman, Murray, and Harold Ramis, a pairing that would come together in 1984 to produce Ghostbusters, with Reitman behind the camera, Ramis writing the script, and both Ramis and Murray on screen. Stripes began life as a Cheech and Chong film about joining the army, but when the duo demanded full creative control, Stripes translated into a comedy about signing up and shipping out. When John Winger (Murray) loses his job, car, girlfriend, and apartment all in one day, he decides to throw it all away and join the army. Accompanied by Russell Ziskey (Ramis), the two head to a recruiting office and soon find themselves at basic training. The film features Warren Oates, John Candy, John Larroquette, Sean Young, and Judge Reinhold in supporting roles.
Yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a controversial film, with a large minority of people who very strongly dislike the narrative choices made along the way. But for every Star Wars fan who hates the eighth film, and the second in the sequel trilogy, there’s yet another who unabashedly loves the film. The Last Jedi picks right up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey on an island standing in front of Luke Skywalker. She’ll quickly learn he’s not the hero he was once thought to have been, a man who exiled himself after a fatal mistake cost thousands of lives in the process. Meanwhile, with the Resistance being followed and pursued by an army of the First Order, Poe Dameron and Finn hatch a plan to save themselves by sending Finn and his new friend Rose undercover to disable the First Order’s tracking unit. And Kylo Ren, recovering from his loss in the first film, finds himself tempted by both Rey and his evil master, the mysterious Snoke, unable to come to terms with his place in the universe. Controversy aside, The Last Jedi is an interesting film, with themes of failure, self-improvement, and the idea of choosing your own destiny. It’s well worth a watch—or a rewatch.
Steven Soderbergh is the master of mixing genre on film, from his heist-comedies in the Ocean’s films to his darker films like Contagion and The Limey. He’s frequently mentioned as one of the best directors working today, and by revisiting The Informant!, it’s easy to see why. The film walks a difficult tone between sarcastic irony and comedic drama, a tough balance to draw, and Soderbergh mostly hits it out of the park. From the casting of mostly comedic actors in deadpan roles (Joel McHale, Tom Papa, Patton Oswalt, Scott Adsit, and Paul F. Tompkins all make appearances) to Matt Damon’s starring role as the self-destructive whistleblower who finds himself digging a bigger and bigger hole as he runs his mouth, The Informant! is a fantastic watch for anyone who loves comedic crime films and unlikable characters.
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 movie that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map, The Sixth Sense was a massive hit when it was released in 1999, earning its director praise for how he handled the film’s last-minute twist and presenting plenty of opportunities for rewatches to look for clues concerning the film’s central conceit. Starring Bruce Willis as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, the film follows Crowe as he begins working with young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a child who claims to see visions of ghosts and the dead. Haunted by a similar former case that ended with Crowe being shot and watching his patient commit suicide, Crowe works to help Sear overcome his visions. But is Crowe right about Cole’s visions being in his head, or is the boy truly seeing ghosts among the living?
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.
Director David Fincher’s second theatrical film, Seven helped right the director’s career after a rocky start making Alien 3. In many ways, Seven sets the course for what Fincher’s career would become. It’s a neo-noir crime film containing some gratuitous violence and a mystery to solve, similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fight Club, and most of all, Zodiac. While Seven doesn’t quite hold a candle to the masterpiece that is Zodiac, but it stands as an excellent crime film to this day. Starring Morgan Freeman and a young Brad Pitt, Seven follows to cops—a rookie and a soon-to-retire detective—as they investigate a serial killer murdering people by using the Seven Deadly Sins as inspiration. As the detectives grow closer to identifying their John Doe, the game becomes personal in a way neither man was ready for.
In this 1991 remake of the original film, Cape Fear reunites director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro in their seventh collaboration. Cape Fear follows Max Cady, a man who was wrongly committed into prison after his attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) withholds evidence that would acquit him. Instead, Cady spent fourteen years in prison until finally being released from jail. Now free, Max sets out to devote his life to stalking and destroying Sam’s family, in revenge for his deceit years ago. When Sam fails to stop Max before he begins enacting his revenge, the attorney realizes that protecting his wife and daughter will have to be done outside the law.
The Coen Brothers are masters of almost any type of film they try their hands at, from broad throwback Hollywood staples in Hail, Caesar! to revisionist westerns in films like No Country for Old Men or True Grit. One of their most beloved films, however, falls into the world of comedic noir. Following Fargo, a masterpiece if there ever was one, the brothers released The Big Lebowski to a mixed critical and commercial reception, only for the film to become a cult hit along the way. The film follows Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, a stoner loser who happens to be mistaken for a rich man with the same name, The Big Lebowski. Beat up for no reason, The Dude tracks down the other Lebowski, who offers him a job: his wife has been kidnapped, and The Dude is going to help get her back.
Considered the final film released during the 1990s Disney Renaissance (which, in our opinion, does a disservice to two of the best Disney animated films, Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove, but we digress), Tarzan is perhaps best known for its Phil Collins soundtrack and the excellent adaptation of the original source material, which uses both traditional animation and CGI backdrops to make a unique-looking film, complete with everything you would want in an adaptation. The film follows Tarzan, an orphaned child in the jungle who is raised by a group of gorillas, along with his surrogate mother Kara. Now an adult, Tarzan must protect his clan from the arrival of a group of English explorers, led by the hunter Clayton, who accompanies the Porters, Jane and her father Archimedes. Torn between his newfound love for Jane and his family of gorillas, Tarzan must find his place in this world.
Based on three short stories by Maile Meloy’s collections of writing, Certain Women is Kelly Reichardt’s 2016 drama, following her 2013 film Night Moves. The film, which was critically acclaimed for both its direction and its acting, stars Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, and Michelle Williams as three strong-willed women living in the plains of the American Northwest, each dealing with her own personal setbacks and frustrations. Kristen Stewart portrays Beth Travis, a young law student who forms a bond with a ranch hand; Laura Dern plays a lawyer who finds herself dealing with office sexism and a toxic client; and Michelle Williams plays a wife and mother who finds her determination to build her dream home places her between a rock and a hard place with her husband.
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.
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 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.
The sixth film by director Alfonso Cuaron continues the director’s trend of creating intimate pieces of work, content that is crafted around long-takes, incredible performances, and thoughtful scripts. Children of Men is the director’s follow-up to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the best of the Harry Potter films, and the director uses that clout to create a film set in a dystopian universe. Children of Men follows a near-future where global infertility has taken place, with humanity slowly facing extinction. In the United Kingdom, one of the final countries with a functioning (albeit restricted) government, a police state has been enacted. When Theo Faron, a former activist and government employee, discovers an immigrant woman is pregnant with the first child in eighteen years, he takes it upon himself to get her to safety.
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.
Peter Jackson’s first film following his massive, critically-acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy was King Kong, a big-budget modern remake of the original classic monster movie. The film follows Carl Denham (Jack Black), a struggling filmmaker in 1930s Depression-Era New York City, who travels to the mysterious Skull Island in order to create a film. After rounding up a crew and cast that agree to follow him to the mysterious island, Carl, his lead actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), and others begin their voyage to Skull Island. Once there, they encounter Kong, a giant gorilla, whom they capture and ship back to New York City. The most expensive film ever made at the time of its release, King Kong was a critical and commercial success, though its three hour runtime is pretty epic even for our tastes.
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.
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, Coraline is the first feature film produced by Laika Studios, a stop-motion animation studio that has created some incredible work over the past decade. Coraline tells the story of Coraline Jones, an adventurous 11-year-old who is uprooted from her home to move to a new one she doesn’t much care for. While looking for something to do in her new area, she goes exploring and discovers a secret door in her new house—one that leads to a parallel world, where her parents have time for her and listen to her needs. While this idealized world feels too perfect to be true, the truth is far more sinister: the world is hiding a dark secret. The film was directed by Henry Selick, best known to animation fans as the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.
Fans of the 2011 action-drama Drive were thrilled when Ryan Gosling re-teamed up with Drive‘s director Nicolas Winding Refn for 2013’s Only God Forgives, a film which featured a trailer that made the entire movie look like a return to the slow-burn, visceral violence featured in Drive. That isn’t necessarily too far off base, but we’d be lying if we said Only God Forgives played like another film in the Drive canon. The film follows Julian Thompson (Gosling), a drug trafficker in Thailand whose mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) sends him on a mission to avenge the murder of his older brother, a criminal who was killed after he beat a prostitute to her death. The film was famously booed following its premiere at Cannes Film Festival (while some gave a standing ovation), and features controversial scenes of violence and sexuality. Since that premiere, the film has continued to feature a polarized reaction from both critics and audiences; even five years later, it remains a difficult watch.
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.
This year saw the removal of more than two dozen Disney Channel original movies from Netflix, but it also saw the arrival of one of the best Disney Channel sequels ever created. Unlike the previous two films, High School Musical 3: Senior Year was released into theaters, marking the first time that a sequel to a Disney Channel movie made the jump to a feature film. As implied by the sequel, the film follows Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Taylor, Sharpay, and Ryan as they start their senior year at East High. With college and other career prospects facing them down the barrel, the six high school seniors will have to learn how to prepare for the real world outside of high school, while simultaneously participating in the final basketball season and the group’s final musical on stage. While the film won’t win over new viewers, it’s easily the most fun you can have watching a musical on Netflix today.
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.
The controversial film from director Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers is a tough watch, no matter how you approach the film. Following four college students as they descend into a life of crime surrounding spring break, the film begins when Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) find themselves short on cash to attend their upcoming vacation. After robbing a diner and heading to Florida, they’re arrested from a local party before being bailed out by a rapper and drug dealer named Alien (James Franco). Slowly, the girls are driven apart by the gang lifestyle, leading to a break in their group and the corruption of two of the girls.
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 when it comes on Netflix later this month.
In the third Thor movie and the seventeenth film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor is back in an all-new adventure that more or less resets the universe and ignored the events of the previous two movies. By far the most-successful Thor film both critically and financially, Thor: Ragnarok is directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows; Hunt for the Wilderpeople). The film starts as Thor escapes from a fire demon, who prophesied the end of Asgard by way of Ragnarok; when Thor defeats him in combat, taking his crown, he believes he has ended the threat. Returning home to Asgard, Thor reveals Loki has been masquerading as Odin, king of Asgard. When the real Odin dies of old age, Thor and Loki’s long-lost sister Hela returns to claim her right to the throne. The film is visually incredible, hilarious in parts, and features some incredible performances from the likes of Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, and the great Jeff Goldblum.
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.
Though most often praised for its incredible screenplay, Hot Fuzz manages to pull off multiple layers of filmmaking at once. Director Edgar Wright’s (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver) second theatrical film and the middle entry in his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy of films stars, as expected, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, returning from Shaun of the Dead and the television series Spaced. In Hot Fuzz, Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a London officer who is transferred to the small town of Snadford when his fellow officers realize his excellent police work will put them out of a job. While there, Angel begins to suspect a violent conspiracy is erupting from within the town, and together with police constable Danny Butterman (Frost), he attempts to crack the case behind a series of deadly “accidents” to bring the culprit to justice. Part paroday and part homage, Hot Fuzz is a hilarious sendup to American action films with a British sensibility, even going as far to directly parody Bad Boys 2 and Point Break. It’s a must-see.
John Hughes made several comedy classics throughout his career, but none were more prolific than The Breakfast Club, often considered the must-watch teen comedy of the 1980s. In The Breakfast Club, five teenagers from completely different cliques are forced to spend a Saturday together after landing themselves in detention. Under the watch of their strict assistant principal Richard Vernon, popular girl Claire Standish, wrestler Andrew Clarke, weirdo Allison Reynolds, nerd Brian Johnson, and “bad boy” John Bender must all be forced into the same room with each other. As they learn to understand each other’s points of view, they slowly become friends while trapped in detention on a Saturday morning, thus becoming the “breakfast club.”
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?
Orson Welles is one of the most famous directors in the world, thanks to his experience in crafting and directing Citizen Kane. That’s far from his only film of note, of course, and in 1958, Welles released one of the last classic noir films of the period in Touch of Evil. The film is, of course, an excellent noir piece, following a car bomb explosion on the American side of the border, Miguel Vargas begins investigating alongside American police captain Hank Quinlan (Welles himself). However, Vargas soon finds himself discovering an inside job cover-up, which makes him doubt his new American partner. Touch of Evil is most famous for its opening scene, which is one of the first long takes in American cinema. That scene still holds up today as fantastic filmmaking, and has even influenced the likes of Better Call Saul.
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.
One of the biggest animated hits of the 2000s, Shrek is a 2001 animated comedy directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and based on the book of the same name by William Steig. The film stars Mike Myers as the titular Shrek, an ogre who prefers his privacy and a sense of calm and quiet, spending his days scaring villagers and hunters away from his swamp. That is, until the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) banishes all fairy tale creatures into Shrek’s swamp, destroying his home and property and prompting him to put an end to Farquaad’s madness. Joined by Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek sets out to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a faraway castle so that he may marry, in exchange for the return of his swamp. Along the way, Shrek might just learn to accept the company of others—and Fiona may end up being something more than originally thought.
Often praised as one of the best science-fiction character studies of the past decade, 2009’s Moon was directed by Duncan Jones (Source Code, Warcraft), son of David Bowie. Moon stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a worker for Lunar Industries who resides alone in a lunar-based factory. Though the factory is almost entirely automated, Sam resides as a single human to ensure operations maintain at their standard pace. Two weeks before the end of his three-year contract, Sam falls unconscious after an accident involving his lunar rover. When Sam awakes, he has no memories of the crash, but overhearing the computer AI GERTY (Kevin Spacey) receive instructions to not let Sam out of the base, he fakes an accident and arrives at the scene of the lunar crash, only to find his doppelganger still unconscious. Together, the two Sams must figure out what this means for both of their lives, and resolve the truth behind their existence. Moon was followed by a spiritual successor in Mute, a 2018 film directed by Jones and released on Netflix.
Pixar’s had something of a rough stretch for the last few years. Although the company’s streak of film’s between 1995 and 2010 are largely indisputable as incredible (with the single exception of Cars and, arguably, parts of Up), the production company’s films between 2011 and 2018 have been mixed. Some have held up well, including 2015’s Inside Out, and plenty of them (Monsters U, Finding Dory, Brave) have been warmly received, but others like The Good Dinosaur were largely ignored or met with a shrug. Coco is closer to Inside Out in this regard, a warm hit that has a slow first act but picks up in the halfway point of the movie, coming around in the third act to hit you with the Pixar-signature emotional punch. It’s a great film, and if you’re looking for something new to watch on Netflix with the entire family and missed this one in theaters, it’s a perfect time to revisit it.
Though perhaps not as well-received as the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 manages to up the ante in a way that doesn’t just succeed in following up on the original film’s crowd-pleasing humor and action, but also manages to tell a more-human story—albeit one with a living planet and a talking raccoon. Guardians Vol. 2 picks up just a few months after the first film, in which Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) have decided to take up protecting the universe from threats both small and large. While trying to escape from a rogue alien race upset by the Guardians’ actions, the team crashlands on a planet only to find that the man who saved the gang is none other than Quill’s long-lost father, Ego. While Quill returns to Ego’s home to learn about his mysterious past, the team must deal with conflicts as their big personalities continue to clash. Guardians manages to be one of the few Marvel films that truly feels different; even the big final battle has larger stakes than most of the Marvel finales. Definitely check this one out.
Before Children of Men and Gravity, before Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and this year’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 later this year.
Before Moana, there was Lilo and Stitch, Disney’s other 2000s animated tale set in the Oceanic region. The sci-fi comedy follows Lilo, a young girl who lives with her older sister following the passing of her parents. Lilo’s sister agrees for her to adopt a dog, but instead, she ends up with an escaped alien creation, codenamed Experiment 626, who crash-landed on the planet after escaping from its captors. Under Lilo’s tutelage, Stitch must learn how to behave like a polite being on Earth, in order to escape both the watch of the government and the aliens who have come to get him back. Lilo and Stitch led to three direct-to-DVD sequels, a full series on Disney Channel, and plenty of merchandise still available today. The movie feels slight for how much it eventually led to, but it’s also the best of the entire media franchise.
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.
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.
If there was ever a movie that hits harder today than it did when it was first released, The Truman Show might be that film. Directed by Peter Weir (Witness, Master and Commander) and starring Jim Carrey, The Truman Show is at once a comedy, a science-fiction drama, and a social satire, following the life of Truman Burbank, a man taken as a baby by a corporation to star in the first always-on reality show about a single man. Truman lives his life inside a dome located in Hollywood known to Truman as “Seahaven,” where everything from his wife to his parents and even his friends are simply actors reading from a script or reciting lines fed to them through an earpiece. In the era of reality television and always-active online social media presences, The Truman Show constitutes a must-watch piece of media.
Director Todd Haynes brought the famous 1952 novel The Price of Salt to the big screen in 2015 with an adaptation in Carol, one of the most-acclaimed films of 2015. Featuring an all-star cast in Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler, the film follows Therese Belivet (Mara), a woman working at a Manhattan department store in the 1950s who spots Carol (Blanchett) looking at doll displays. The two woman quickly become friends, and more, with dangerous results that spawn as Carol’s ex-husband begins to spy and pry on the life of the two women.
Brought to the big screen by Paul Greengrass and based on the book of the same name by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Ultimatum is the third chapter in the original Bourne trilogy, following Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity and Greengrass’s own The Bourne Supremacy. The film picks up after the events of Supremacy, with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) on the run from Moscow police while wounded. Meanwhile CIA deputy director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) meets with her team to discuss the audio confession of the leader of Operation Treadstone, of which Bourne was a direct part in. As Bourne works to uncover the truth about his past and the mysterious experiments he was a part of, he’ll need to stay on the run as he moves from location to location around the world.
Yes, Edgar Wright already has two films on this list, in both Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but when you’re as good at visual comedy as Wright is, there’s no reason not to include as many films of his on this list as possible. That includes his 2004 film Shaun of the Dead, which happens to be one of the best comedies of the last twenty years. Shaun follows the titular character, a washed up guy with no chance of making something of himself. When his girlfriend finally has enough and dumps him, he plans to drink his problems away—until a zombie apocalypse puts things into a whole new perspective. With some fantastic writing, acting, and editing, Shaun of the Dead marked the true beginning of the Cornetto Trilogy, and helped to skyrocket the careers of almost everyone involved, from Wright to stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
One of Spielberg’s best films of the past decade, Lincoln is a brilliant epic historical drama, following President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) through the final four months of his life, including the end of the Civil War and his efforts to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed and ratified by Congress. The film is worth watching for plenty of reasons—the script by Tony Kushner, based on the book Team of Rivals; Spielberg’s direction; and the supporting cast, which include Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field as Mary Todd, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The real reason to watch the film, however, is for Daniel Day-Lewis. His now-penultimate performance before retiring in 2017, Day-Lewis brings everything you could want as Lincoln to the table. The film earned Day-Lewis his third Best Actor award from the Oscars, making him the first actor to do so.
We could argue all day about what we consider Quentin Tarantino’s best film. Pulp Fiction seems like the obvious answer, though you could make your case for Reservoir Dogs or perhaps, if looking at his more recent films, Inglourious Basterds. Jackie Brown is often hailed as his best piece of work that the fewest of his diehard fans have seen, but we think you could make the case for Kill Bill being one of his best. Originally designed as a single film, Kill Bill was released in two volumes in the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004, and Volume One is often seen as the better of the two pieces of work. Following the Bride (Uma Thurman) as she goes on a revenge-fueled quest to take down her former Assassination Squad, Kill Bill: Volume One is a bloody, violent, and thrilling cinematic experience. The final fight scene between the Bride and the yakuza armies of O-Ren (Lucy Liu) are as exciting as anything you could ever imagine. Volume Two is also streaming.
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.
A landmark film in crime movies, Michael Mann’s Heat is often considered a career high for the trio of high-profile stars in the movie. Starring an ensemble cast, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, and Danny Trejo, Heat follows De Niro and Pacino as Neil McCauley and Lt. Vincent Hanna, respectively, the former a professional thief, the latter a member of the LAPD robbery-homicide department tasked with tracking down McCauley’s crew. When McCauley hires an outside criminal to help his group of thieves steal $1.6 million in bearer bonds, things go south fast when the outside help murders a guard, risking the entire mission and putting the heat on McCauley’s back. The film is one of Mann’s best, and despite it’s nearly three hour runtime, the film feels half its length.
Peter Jackson’s first entry into the now-legendary Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring starts off the trilogy right by adapting the first novel in J.R.R. Tolkien’s critically-acclaimed trilogy of fantasy novels. When Frodo Baggins, a young Hobbit who lives in the Shire, is called upon by fate, by his uncle Bilbo, and by Gandalf the Grey to head out on an adventure to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, he finds himself sinking under the pressure of having to deal with powerful forces, dangerous foes, and new and unwieldy allies. The Fellowship of the Ring is a straight adaptation of Tolkien’s original first part of the novel, and is considered a landmark achievement in both filmmaking and the fantasy genre. The two follow-up films, The Two Towers and the Best Picture-winning The Return of the King, are unfortunately not on Netflix as of writing.
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.
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.
We’ll be honest: Avengers: Infinity War won’t go on any “best films you don’t know about” list anytime soon. If you have any passing interest in the MCU as a series, you probably saw this film in theaters, or at home when it hit iTunes and other digital platforms a few months after its release. Whether or not you saw it, its release on Netflix makes it the perfect time to revisit before the upcoming releases of both Captain Marvel and the conclusion of the Thanos story, Avengers: Endgame. The film follows the entire Avengers team, from Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy, as they clash in a head to head against Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos begins to collect the stones in order to bring destruction, chaos, and his own twisted version of “order” to the universe.
Directed by Ridley Scott, and released less than a year after Hannibal, Black Hawk Down tells the story of the 1993 raid in Mogadishu, aimed at capturing faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Based on the nonfiction book of the same name, the film follows US special forces sent into Somalia to bring food, resources, and humanitarian aid to the starving population, all while trying to destabilize the government to bring down the group. The troops use Black Hawk helicopters to lower the soldiers onto the ground, but an unexpected attack by Somalian fighters leave two helicopters down on the ground. From there, the US soldiers must struggle against the odds to survive in Somalia. Starring a A-list cast, Black Hawk Down won two Academy Awards and was a box office success.
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.
From director David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Outlaw King) directed this Best Picture-nominated film in 2016 with a script from Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Wind River) follow two brothers who work together to try to save their family ranch from foreclosure. Toby and Tanner haven’t led perfect lives, but to accomplish their goal, they’ll have to turn to a life of crime in order to raise the necessary money through a series of heists. Their only problem is Marcus (Jeff Bridges), a Texas Ranger weeks away from retirement and paired with his soon-to-be replacement. As the two brothers plan out their final robbery, they’ll be forced to fight back against the law, who’s trying to take both brothers down as quickly as possible.
What can be said about The Dark Knight that hasn’t already been said? 2008 saw two superhero films released that changed the entire genre for the next decade, and while Iron Man perhaps had a bigger power in the role of film today, setting the standard for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and leading to what may be the biggest franchise of all time, The Dark Knight was the first superhero film that saw filmgoers and critics reevaluate how superhero films can rise above the limits of the genre to be good films in and of themselves. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the second film in the Dark Knight trilogy picks up where Batman Begins left off. With a new villain in town calling himself the Joker, Bruce Wayne will have to once again put on his mask to battle against a new league of criminals seemingly set on throwing the entire city of Gotham into chaos.
Quentin Tarantino’s classic postmodern film returned to Netflix at the very beginning of 2019, which means it’s time for a whole new generation of up and coming film scholars to experience the film that made Tarantino the massive giant in filmmaking he is today. The film is told out of chronological order, following several characters as each of their stories blend and fold into one another. These three stories include two hitmen, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), who work for their boss Marsellus; prizefighter Butch Coolidge, who is bribed by Marsellus to lose an upcoming fight, and a couple of small-time crooks named Ringo and Yolanda who hold up a diner at both the beginning and end of the film. Tarantino’s ninth film arrives in August of this year, making it the perfect time to revisit his all-time classic.
In this 2008 horror film from director Bryan Bertino, tension and atmosphere are the name of the game. The film follows a married couple, Kristen and James (played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, respectively), who are enjoying a relaxing weekend at a family vacation home. When three masked intruders break into their home, Kristen and James begin to struggle to get through the night. Inspired by the Manson family murders, the Keddie Cabin murders, and a series of break-ins that Bertino experienced in his own neighborhood as a child, the film has been seen by film scholars as a criticism of the perceived safety of pastoral life.
In this Best Picture-winning crime drama, Martin Scorsese directs an A-list cast in this remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Internal Affairs. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Billy Costigan Jr, a student at a police academy who is recruited to go undercover in a crime syndicate in South Boston, thanks to his family ties that make him the perfect candidate. Years prior to that, Colin Costello (Matt Damon) is introduced to that same crime life by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), who grooms Costello to become a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police. As each man infiltrates their respective targets, the two men will start to chase each other, each having to protect both their own life and the lives of those they care about. Also starring Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Vera Farmiga, The Departed was both a critical and commercial success, and is a much-see entry in Scorsese’s filmography.
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.
Often in contention for the best film directed and written by the Coen brothers, No Country for Old Men is a modern classic that is a must-see for fans of the directors or for fans of film. No Country for Old Men is set in Texas, 1980, following three men who are on the hunt for each other, each with different motives. When Llewelyn finds the remains of a shootout in the desert while hunting pronghorns, the trail of blood leads him to find a briefcase with two million dollars. He heads out on the run in an attempt to save the cash for him and his wife, only to find that a hitman named Anton Chigurh is hot on his trail. Following behind both men is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who wants to get to Llewelyn before Anton in order to save his life.
For much of the 2000s, Ben Affleck was seen as something of a Hollywood failure. Arriving on the scene at the same time as Matt Damon, the two careers spun in massively different directions, with Affleck starring in several poorly-received films including Daredevil, Gigli, and Paycheck. His career was perhaps saved by one film, Gone Baby Gone, a production where he stepped behind the camera to direct his younger brother Casey Affleck. Based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island, Mystic River), the film follows Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as two private investigators hunting for a young girl who was abducted from a Boston neighborhood.
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.
The first film from renowned playwright Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is a black comedy crime film starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. Farrell plays a rookie hitman named Ray who, while carrying out orders to kill a priest, accidentally murders a young boy. Both Ray and Ken (Gleeson) are sent to Bruges by their employer Harry (Fiennes), and told to wait for further instructions. While Ken, a veteran hitman who had taken Ray under his wing, finds Bruges charming, Ray feels trapped by the smallness of the town, and finds himself growing restless. When Ken is given orders to kill Ray on account for the murder of a child, considered unforgivable by Harry, the three men will find themselves closer and closer to an all-out brawl as the task spirals out of control.
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.
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.
In the summer of 2001, The Fast and the Furious seemed like a small film compared to the rest of that year’s lineup of blockbusters, including the already-released The Mummy Returns, Shrek, and A Knight’s Tale, with upcoming films like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring just months away. Still, when The Fast and the Furious hit the big screen, it felt larger than life, and managed to become so successful that it created a mega-franchise to outlive almost every major franchise it had been released around. The first film follows Brian O’Connor, an LAPD detective who is assigned to go undercover to find a gang responsible for stealing a truckload of electronics the night before. While undercover, he meets Dom Toretto, a professional street racer who lives with his sister Mia and his girlfriend Letty. As Brian gets pulled into the world of illegal street racing, he risks getting too close to his suspects.
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.
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.