The Lost Daughter.
Photo: COURTESY OF NETFLIX
This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.
With thousands of movies to choose from, and a navigation system and algorithm that don’t always make the right choice easy to find, it can be difficult to know what to watch on Netflix. That’s why we’re here, breaking down the 100 best movies on the service at this minute, with regular updates for titles that have been removed and when new ones are added. We’ve done the hard work, so now the only thing you have to do is sit back and, uh, watch all 100 movies. (And if you’re more of a TV person, check out the 50 best TV shows on Netflix.)
Michael Mann directed the 2001 biopic of one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali. Will Smith does possibly the best film work of his career as the legendary boxer, civil rights icon, and all-around role model, and Mann approaches the life of Ali with his own unique craftsmanship.
Francis Ford Coppola went into the jungles, nearly lost his mind, and came back with a war movie masterpiece, one of the most quoted and cited combat films ever made. The journey to find Colonel Kurtz plays out like a fever dream, a trip into the violent soul of man. Blending Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with the recent wounds of the Vietnam War, Coppola barely survived production to deliver a movie that deserves to be mentioned with the best Vietnam flicks of all time.
Believe it or not, this is the last movie to win both the Oscar for Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress (Helen Hunt). James L. Brooks’s romantic comedy is a perfect example of a film that caught its cast at just the right moment, getting one of the last Nicholson performances that could be called charming and supporting it with great work from Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Some of it is a bit dated, but it catches just enough lightning in a bottle in terms of casting to justify another look.
Mati Diop’s directorial debut is a tender, mesmerizing study of life on the coast of Senegal, where men often venture out for more prosperous shores, leaving the women behind. It’s a delicate, beautiful film that plays like a romance, ghost story, and study of inequality all at the same time. See it before someone recommends it to you.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western anthology series was a part of Netflix’s brand-redefining 2018. Sure, Netflix still has a bunch of junk, but it also landed the latest from Alfonso Cuaron, the Coens, and even Orson Welles. This brilliant Western works as comedy, drama, and even a commentary on the Coens themselves. Don’t miss it.
Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this adaptation of the 1966 novel by Thomas P. Cullinan (already adapted once in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood). It’s a gorgeous period piece about the impact of an injured Union Army soldier (Colin Farrell) on a girls school in Virginia in 1864. Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning fill out the splendid ensemble.
Tim Burton released one of the most acclaimed films of his career with his 2003 fantasy drama starring Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. Billy Crudup plays the estranged son of a man with a vivid imagination, one who tells the story of his life on his deathbed. Some of it is a bit manipulative, but it also contains some vibrant Burton imagination and great performances, especially from Finney, and it’s clearly a film that Burton gave a personal touch.
Michael Mann’s last movie was a divisive 2015 thriller starring Chris Hemsworth as a brilliant computer hacker who is released in order to catch a monster who is hoping to bring down the world’s entire information superhighway. It’s not one of Mann’s best, but minor Mann is still major as the craft on display here is still impossible to completely dismiss. Note: the Netflix version is the theatrical. Fans holding out hope for the barely seen director’s cut will have to wait.
Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece was notoriously derided when it was released but would go on to change the cinematic landscape. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard in the sci-fi noir, a film that changed the visual language of the genre and launched dozens of copycats. The original is still perfect, and this is the final cut edition of the film, the 2007 version that removes the voice-over, re-inserts the unicorn, and takes out the original happy ending.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 epic retelling of the classic novel is one of the most lavish and ambitious Hollywood productions of its era. Gary Oldman gives one of his best performances as the title character, but it’s Coppola’s incredible craftsmanship and unforgettable design that make this movie an underrated horror classic.
Mel Gibson was a household name before Braveheart, but this 1995 epic war film redefined his career. No longer was he just an action star but also an Oscar-winning director for his adaptation of a 15th century epic poem about William Wallace, a famous Scottish warrior. Braveheart feels like a different era in Hollywood filmmaking today, and not just because of how hard Gibson would fall, but it’s a snapshot of a time when star power could get a movie like this made.
Jane Campion is about to dominate awards season with her phenomenal The Power of the Dog (on Netflix now), so why not catch up with, believe it or not, her last feature film, 2009’s luminous Bright Star. Ben Whishaw stars as John Keats, the famous English poet, captured here in the last three years of his life, when he fell deeply in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne, played by Abbie Cornish. Inspired by Andrew Morton’s 1997 biography, it’s a lyrical, romantic, beautiful drama.
As No Time to Die has finally been released after multiple delays, Netflix is here to satisfy your 007 needs with the first outing for Daniel Craig as the most famous movie spy of all time. This is easily one of the best Bond movies, a flick that redefined the character with more intense stakes and realistic action sequences.
Is this the biggest horror movie of the 2010s? Not only did it make James Wan into a major director, but it spawned its own multiple title franchise with spin-offs like The Nun and Annabelle. Go back to the beginning and watch the first and arguably still best film in the series, a fantastic haunted house movie that revitalized the genre. And then follow it up with the excellent sequel, also on Netflix.
Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror film seemed to start building a cult following the instant it was released. Sure, mainstream audiences who came to the multiplex in October looking for a scary movie didn’t quite respond to it, but a reappreciation started quickly. After all, this is a gorgeous, unforgettable piece of craft, a reminder that del Toro’s vision is unlike anyone else working together. Watch it again. It’s one of those movies everyone is going to claim they loved from the very beginning.
Barack and Michelle Obama executive produced one of 2020’s best documentaries in this Netflix exclusive that originally premiered at Sundance. It’s the story of Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York in the ‘70s that was described as a “loose, free-spirited camp designed for teens with disabilities.” This isn’t just a time capsule but a look at how support and community can change people’s lives forever.
Clive Owen broke through in this 1998 noir in which he’s so smooth that people immediately began suggesting he should be the next 007. Owen plays a writer who gets a job as a croupier — a fancy word for a dealer in a casino — and falls into the wrong scene. Smart and thrilling, it’s one of the more underrated movies of the late ‘90s, and a perfect vehicle for Owen’s charm.
Spike Lee’s first Original Netflix movie is one of the master filmmaker’s best works to date. The story of five men searching for gold in the jungle is more of a commentary on two wars that never ended – the Vietnam War and the struggle for civil rights.
Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winner reimagines both the Old West and the Italian film series Django into something that only QT could make. It features one of Jamie Foxx’s best performances as the title character, a slave who escapes and teams up with a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his amazing work here.
One of the best crime dramas of the 1990s, Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco tells the true story of FBI Agent Joseph Pistoen, who went undercover in the Bonanno crime family in the 1970s under the alias Donnie Brasco. Johnny Depp plays the G-Man, but the film really belongs to Al Pacino, who gives one of the most heartbreaking performances of his career.
The Exorcist changed the horror genre forever. Pulling nightmares out of nothing less than the timeless fear of Satan himself, William Friedkin’s adaptation of the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty shook the entire world, becoming a major hit and the first horror film nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. Its influence can still be seen all over genre filmmaking today.
The wonderful Julia Hart co-wrote and directed a very unusual superhero origin story that plays like the more character-driven answer to the blockbuster worlds of things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The great Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Ruth, a young woman who seems to have lost control over her life and the very unique nature of her being. As she’s being hunted by men in black, she finds her way home and back into the sphere of her mother and daughter. What unfolds is a story of empowerment, a truly female-driven narrative about generations of strength, and an origin story for an unforgettable hero.
Leigh Janiak co-wrote and directed a trilogy of adaptations loosely based on the books by R.L. Stine. These great horror films tell the story of Shadyside, a small town cursed by a witch generations ago in a way that has led to waves of murders ever since. Smart, funny, and truly bloody, they first seem like mere homages to classic horror (and there are a ton of fun references for genre fans) but they also stand firmly on their own two feet.
One of the best films of the 2010s is this heartbreaking character study from Sean Baker, a story of people on the edge of the Happiest Place on Earth as seen through the eyes of a child. It’s a beautiful movie with unforgettable performances and poetic realism throughout.
It’s a cliché but Andrew Niccol’s 1997 sci-fi drama truly was ahead of its time. Unpacking themes of eugenics that would only become more feasible with medical and technological advancements over the last quarter-century, Niccol’s excellent genre flick tells the story of a future where genetics are determined. With great work by Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, it’s a movie you really should revisit.
The Vulture choice for the Best Netflix Original Horror Movie has to be on this list too, right? Especially viewed in the wake of the phenomenon that was The Haunting of Hill House, this movie really works. It’s one of the best Stephen King adaptations on any platform, anchored by a phenomenal Carla Gugino performance.
It’s still hard to believe that Chadwick Boseman is gone. Take the chance now that this biopic is on Netflix to see one of his best performances as the late, great James Brown. The film around Boseman is a bit mediocre in traditional biopic ways, but Boseman throws his all into the role, as he always did, and gives Brown the tribute he deserves.
Rooney Mara is fearless and fantastic in the David Fincher-directed adaptation of the Stieg Larsson thriller that became an international phenomenon. Daniel Craig co-stars as a journalist who recruits Mara’s Lisbeth Salander to help investigate a decades-old disappearance. It’s a stunner of a movie, one of Fincher’s most underrated.
The reason that Joe Dante’s film became such a phenomenon, and the reason it holds up today, is that the super-talented director knew how to balance both the comedy and horror in his story of Gizmo, Stripe, and the rest of the Gremlins. Unlike a lot of ‘80s stuff, it hasn’t aged at all.
Antoine Fuqua directs the American remake of a taut Danish thriller from 2018. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a cop who is being investigated while he moonlights as a 911 operator and the wildfires burn through California. In these already tense conditions, he gets a call from a woman who claims to be kidnapped. Can he save her with such limited information? Intense and captivating, it’s a reminder of how great Gyllenhaal can be with the right material.
Alice Wu wrote and directed a delightful coming-of-age dramedy that spins the norms. A loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, it features a star-making performance from Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, a girl who starts writing love letters for the awkward Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer). The object of his affection, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), turns out to be more than just a typical unrequited love. It’s a sweet and smart film.
Debate among yourselves if this should be on the movie or TV list, but it’s still basically the same venture that was released in theaters, only slightly reedited by Quentin Tarantino into episodes, so we say it’s a movie. And it’s an underrated one, overshadowed by the way it deals with race and gender when it was released. Just a few years later, it looks almost prescient about how divided the country would become, and it contains some of the best performances in Q.T.’s entire filmography.
David Mackenzie’s 2016 modern Western is feeling more and more like a definitive film of the last decade. There aren’t many better movies that capture the lengths people will go to hold on to what’s theirs than this story of two brothers (Chris Pine & Ben Foster) who become bank robbers to save their family land. The cast is uniformly great, but it’s Taylor Sheridan’s excellent script that really makes this special.
Steven Soderbergh very rarely makes bad movies and he’s not about to start with Andre Holland and Zazie Beetz in his court. The two star in the first excellent Netflix movie of 2019, an analysis of the game on top of the game that makes the NBA work. The man who almost directed Moneyball crafts a razor-sharp, incredibly entertaining, and humane basketball/corporate-media/labor drama that will appeal to hoops fanatics and the sports-averse alike. And the entire thing was shot on an iPhone!
One of the best horror movies on Netflix, this Sundance darling is the tale of a pair of Sudanese refugees who flee to London only to discover ghosts have fled with them. It’s a harrowing, terrifying piece of work, elevated even further by its impressive commentary about how much people bring with them when they leave. Houses aren’t haunted; people are.
Any conversation about the best cinematic trilogies ever simply must include the DreamWorks films about Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The original is still the undeniable masterpiece, but both sequels are nearly as good, including this 2014 story of how Hiccup reunites with his mother, voiced by Cate Blanchett. It’s a gorgeous, moving story of family and legacy.
Young film lovers may not know why Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are so beloved in the film community. This is a good place to start. Both are at the top of their game (Thompson won an Oscar, as did Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for her screenplay) in this gorgeous Merchant/Ivory adaptation of the E.M. Forster classic.
Before he made Hemsworth your favorite Chris in Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi wrote and directed this adaptation of Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has a new foster family, including a sweet foster mother. Sadly, he’s stuck with the surly husband when his new mom passes away, leading Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill) on an unforgettable adventure. Funny and truly heartwarming, this is a comedy that’s almost impossible to dislike.
The events in Minnesota and elsewhere in 2020 brought viewers back to this stunning 2016 documentary that works from an unfinished manuscript by the brilliant James Baldwin. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, it’s an exploration of racial issues in America that digs back through the civil rights leaders through Baldwin’s personal experiences and beyond. It’s a must-watch.
Charlie Kaufman wrote and directed one of the biggest and best Netflix movies of 2020, the story of a woman (Jessie Buckley) who travels with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (David Thewlis & Toni Collette). Of course, being by the writer of Being John Malkovich, there’s a lot more to this than a simple description can convey. Trippy and deeply symbolic, it’s a Netflix movie that people are going to be talking about for years.
Bryan Fogel’s 2017 Sundance premiere was a surprising winner for the Oscar for Best Documentary the next year. It’s a look at one of the most shocking drug scandals in history, one that destroyed the Russian Olympic teams, and it plays like a thriller with the filmmakers there as every revelation comes to light.
The great Wolfgang Petersen directed Clint Eastwood in one of his best films of the ‘90s, a blockbuster hit about a Secret Service agent who matches wits with a former CIA agent (played by John Malkovich) who is trying to assassinate the President of the United States. This tight thriller also stars Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, and John Mahoney. It was such a hit that it landed three Oscar nominations, including the last one for Malkovich.
Neil Jordan directed this adaptation of the smash hit 1976 novel by Anne Rice about a legendary bloodsucker named Lestat. Controversially played by Tom Cruise, Lestat’s partnership with another vamp named Louis (Brad Pitt) and their turning of a girl named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) serve as the narrative focus for a film that’s all about sexy style.
Sean Penn wrote and directed an adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer, which introduced the world to the story of Christopher McCandless. The young man, played in the film by Emile Hirsch, left everything behind, basically wandering into the Alaskan Wilderness, from which he never returned. It’s a lyrical drama with great performances.
Netflix’s most ambitious and expensive project to date is this 3.5-hour epic based on the life of Frank Sheeran, errand boy for the Mafia and friend of Jimmy Hoffa. Martin Scorsese directs living legends like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to some of the best work of their career. It is epic, elegiac, and unforgettable — a commentary on a violent life and, really, the filmmaker’s entire body of work.
Finally! After the massive success of Cobra Kai on Netflix, the streamer finally now also offers fans the original trilogy of films about the kid who learns karate from Mr. Miyagi. The 1984 original is still, by far, the best, starring Ralph Macchio and the great Pat Morita. Less successful are the 1986 and 1989 sequels, but no one would blame fans for wanting to watch the whole trilogy.
A man who likes to play God meets a boy who likes to play Satan in this twisted horror film from Yorgos Lanthimos, the daring director of The Lobster and The Favourite. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman head the cast of a film that owes more to ’70s psychological horror than slasher pics. It’s unforgettable.
Andrew Dominik reunited with Brad Pitt after their collaboration on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford for this adaptation of George V. Higgins’ Cogan’s Trade. At the time, audiences wanted something a little more action-driven than this character study delivers, but it’s developed a loyal cult following since 2012 and contains one of the late great James Gandolfini’s best screen performances.
Greta Gerwig’s Oscar nominee is one of the most personal and striking coming-of-age films of the 2010s. Saoirse Ronan stars as a young Californian who longs for someplace cooler than her own hometown. It’s a heartfelt and very smart film, buoyed by great performances throughout, including Ronan, Tracy Letts, Timothee Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, and Laurie Metcalf, who was robbed of that Oscar.
Also known as The Professional, this 1994 film was the breakthrough for Natalie Portman, who plays 12-year-old Mathilda, a girl taken in by a stoic hitman, played by Jean Reno. Luc Besson wrote and directed this taut thriller that also features a memorable over-the-top performance from the great Gary Oldman.
Rian Johnson’s stellar 2012 sci-fi/action film starts Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and Bruce Willis. JGL plays a contract killer who is also a looper, someone who goes back in time to complete his hits. When he, a victim played by Willis, is sent back in time to be killed by Gordon-Levitt, he discovers that he’s been asked to close the loop on himself. Daring and thrilling, it’s the kind of adult action film one wishes was made more often.
Joel Schumacher directed this genre hybrid about two boys who move to the small town of Santa Carla after their parents get divorced and discover their new home has a secret. Wonderfully dated in that ‘80s style, this clever cult classic features strong work from Jason Patric, Corey Haim, and Kiefer Sutherland too.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is one of the most acclaimed films of 2021, and one of the best Netflix original dramas to date. Olivia Colman stars as a woman on a beach vacation who meets a family that reminds her of her own. A commentary on the complexity of relationships between parents and children, The Lost Daughter is a gorgeous, complicated character study.
The brilliant Liz Garbus moved from her traditional form of documentary filmmaking to direct this 2020 thriller based on the book of the same name by Robert Kolker. Amy Ryan plays Mari Gilbert, the mother of a young sex worker who disappeared on Long Island, leading to the revelation that a serial killer has been prowling the location. It’s a unique true crime story in that it centers the victims and their relatives instead of the killer, who remains unidentified.
As far as our country still has to go, it’s worth considering how far it’s come at the same time. Take this true story of an interracial couple — played with beauty and grace by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga — who had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for their marriage to be legal. And that was in 1967. Jeff Nichols wrote and directed this nuanced, moving drama.
Chadwick Boseman is electric in his final film role in this adaptation of the beloved play by August Wilson. Viola Davis matches him beat for beat in this story of the recording of an album by the legendary Ma Rainey, but it’s knowing Boseman’s personal struggle, particularly in two emotional monologues, that makes this unforgettable.
David Fincher returned in 2020 after a six-year hiatus from filmmaking and delivered one of his most ambitious works, an accounting of the controversy over who actually wrote Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman plays Herman Mankiewicz, the disgraced writer who was hired by Orson Welles, and, if one believes the movie, channeled his personal history with William Randolph Hearst into Kane. It’s a lavish production with incredible cinematography, costumes, and art direction.
Noah Baumbach returns to Netflix with his best film to date, the story of the dissolution of a marriage between a theatre director (Adam Driver) and his lead actress (Scarlett Johannson). The two leads also do the best work of their careers in a smart, moving piece of work about how divorce turns you into a person you never thought you’d become, and how you have to move on as that new person. It’s one of the best films of 2019.
One of P.T. Anderson’s best films, and one of the best films of the 2010s by anybody, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Originally seen as a dissection of the creation of Scientology, The Master is a lot more than that, breaking down leader/follower relationships, trauma, and doubt in ways that only one of our best filmmakers could. It’s a masterpiece.
The 2017 Noah Baumbach’s film didn’t premiere in theaters, instead going the Netflix route in 2017. Adam Sandler does arguably the best work of his career in this drama about how family can both connect and divide us, sometimes in the same moment. Sandler is joined by Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson in this must-see dramedy. Forget the Sandler Netflix Originals — watch this one instead.
Before they worked together on the stellar Selma, writer/director Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo made this phenomenal drama in 2012, the winner of the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic Film that year. Emayatzy Corinealdi is excellent as a woman visiting a husband (Omari Hardwick) behind bars when she meets a new man who could end that chapter in her life.
Once set to be releases in theaters with the name Connected, Sony shipped this project off to Netflix, and the result is one of the most delightful animated films of 2021. Produced by Phil Lord & Chris Miller of The LEGO Movie fame, this wonderful film is like a hybrid of a family road comedy like Vacation and a robot apocalypse movie like T2: Judgment Day. With great voice work and vibrant visuals, it’s a Netflix original that people will be talking about all year.
Bennett Miller’s best film is his brilliant adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis. It’s the story of the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics, one in which general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) tried to find a system that could keep his team competitive without the budget of other franchises. It’s one of the best baseball movies ever made.
Movies don’t get much funnier than the best offering from the Monty Python troupe, a comedy that spawned a quoting fandom that still roams the hills saying, “Not dead yet,” and, “I fart in your general direction.” It’s possible there’s a young generation yet to appreciate the comedic brilliance of the men of Monty Python. Start here and then move on to the sketches and other movies, some of which are also on Netflix.
Arguably Netflix’s first masterpiece, Dee Rees’s period drama is an epic portrait of racism, trauma, and injustice in the post-WWII South. You won’t find a better ensemble in a Netflix Original, anchored by Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and the amazing Dee Rees.
One of the most popular classic movie musicals of all time dropped on Netflix, a streaming service not exactly known for a deep catalog of movies from previous generations. This 1964 musical adapts the 1956 play of the same name, a riff on George Bernard Shaw’s classic Pygmalion. It features Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison at their most charismatic, and won eight Oscars, including Best Picture.
The writer-director of The Babadook may have terrified more audiences with her follow-up to this film, but The Nightingale is no less terrifying. Aisling Franciosi gives a daring performance as Clare, a servant in a penal colony in 1825, who is raped before her baby is killed. She hunts down her attackers and gets her vengeance, but that description simplifies a daring, complex film about colonialism, trauma, and pure evil.
Movies don’t get much darker than this Tom Ford 2016 noir thriller with an incredible cast. The narrative folds in on itself in a way that makes explaining it here but trust that Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, and Michael Sheen know what they’re doing here.
Martin Scorsese directed this masterful documentary, one of the best music films ever made. It’s the story of the life of Bob Dylan, told over more than 200 minutes of interviews, archival footage, and analysis of Dylan’s impact on pop culture and even politics. Even if you don’t like Dylan, you’ll like this.
God bless Bong Joon-ho. The director of The Host, The Mother, and Snowpiercer — all of which you owe it to yourself to see — brought arguably his weirdest movie yet to Netflix in this sci-fi dramedy about a giant pig. Say what you will about the film’s flights of fancy — or Jake Gyllenhaal’s truly committed performance — there ain’t nothing else like it on Netflix.
We don’t deserve Laika. The geniuses at the best stop-motion animation studio in the world delivered the goods with films like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, but their best work remains this 2012 gem about a kid who can see ghosts. As Norman tries to end a centuries-old curse, this visually striking and ultimately moving work never falters once.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 drama was one of the beloved director’s most acclaimed films, ultimately landing six Oscar nominations, including Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a famous fashion designer who forms a uniquely co-dependent relationship with a young waitress, played by Vicky Krieps. It’s a fascinating character study that’s even richer on repeat viewing.
Some of Stephen Frears’s 2013 drama can be a bit trite, but then there’s the Oscar-nominated performance at the center from the great Judi Dench to ground it. She plays Philomena Lee in this true story of a decades-long search for a son she gave up for adoption. This emotional crowd-pleaser was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
Jane Campion wrote and directed an adaptation of the Thomas Savage novel, and ended up delivering one of the best films of 2021. Benedict Cumberbatch does career-best work as Phil Burbank, the brother of the mild-mannered George (Jesse Plemons). When George comes home with a bride (Kirsten Dunst), Phil sets about to make her life a living Hell and Campion unpacks toxic masculinity in the Old West in a way that’s riveting and unforgettable.
Michael Mann directed Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the FBI Agent who pursued him. Shot in Chicago on digital film, it’s a riveting piece of work visually and contains an incredible supporting cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, Billy Crudup, Jason Clarke, Bill Camp, and many more. An epic portrait of the end of a gangster era.
Tatiana Huezo directed this excellent drama about the torturous fragility of existence in a part of the world that has been torn apart by the drug war. Premiering at Cannes in June, the film Is Mexico’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar as it details the story of young women in a border town where human trafficking and threats of violence are a daily concern. It’s heartbreaking and all too real.
Tamara Jenkins returned to filmmaking for the first time since The Savages with this personal portrait of the struggle faced by people going through fertility procedures. With an amazingly truthful performance by Kathryn Hahn, this is the kind of film that feels both delicately specific and universal to the struggle of so many couples.
The great documentarian Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine) shares director credit on this masterpiece with the six men whose story it tells. Greene follows these men as they process their histories of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests through something called drama therapy, digging into their traumas through theatre projects. It’s a moving study of healing and the power of collaboration.
Robert Redford directed one of the most beloved films of his career in this 1992 family drama, based on the 1976 novella of the same name. It’s the story of two sons of a Presbyterian minister and how they come of age in the Rocky Mountains between World War I and the Great Depression. A winner of the Oscar for Best Cinematography, A River Runs Through It stars Tom Skerritt, Craig Sheffer, and an early great performance from Brad Pitt.
Alfonso Cuaron’s deeply personal story of the domestic worker who really helped raise him is Netflix’s first nominee for Best Picture and a movie that has really altered the way the streaming service will be seen on the film landscape. It’s also a masterpiece, a heartbreaking, mesmerizing piece of filmmaking that really operates on Roger Ebert’s belief that great cinema is an “empathy machine,” a way to experience lives that you otherwise never would.
Look, it’s Thor and Baron Zemo! Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl play rivals in Ron Howard’s 2013 film about Formula 1 motor-racing, centering the famous rivalry between Brit James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. The racing scenes are expertly made, but it’s Brühl’s performance here that’s the real reason to watch. It’s the best work of his notable career so far.
Sometimes a director finds a cast at just the right time and that’s exactly what happened when David O. Russell tapped Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver in this romantic dramedy. They’re all perfect, making this one of the more likable and easy-to-watch movies you could possibly bring up on Netflix.
There aren’t a lot of great kids movies on Netflix, especially as so many family subscribers are moving over to Disney+, so we should take the chance to watch the best ones as much as possible. And maybe if you watch this very funny, clever Aardman movie over and over again, they’ll make more of them. The great silent comedy of Shaun the Sheep meets science fiction in this riff on E.T. that’s very sweet and very funny.
One of the most beloved films of all time, this Stephen King adaptation seems to grow more popular with each passing year. One of the reasons for that is that it’s incredibly rewatchable. If you haven’t seen the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in a few years, maybe it’s time for a revisit.
One of the best movies of the 2010s has returned to Netflix after a brief hiatus to remind people how wildly far ahead of its time this movie was when it was released. With a razor-sharp screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and some of the best direction of David Fincher’s career, The Social Network is a flawless movie, one that resonate even more now in the era of constant internet than it did a decade ago.
One of the best Stephen King adaptations remains the 1986 coming-of-age story based on the author’s short story “The Body.” Rob Reiner directed a fantastic young cast that includes River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Wil Wheaton, and Corey Feldman as four friends who go on a hike to find a dead body.
This movie is a fascinating litmus test as to how people read cinema. Invite some friends over, put it on, and then discuss what Paul Verhoeven is going for with his story of interstellar killer aliens and, more importantly, the space force of beautiful people put together to stop them. Suggest that maybe there’s more going on than just sci-fi/action. Or just sit back and enjoy the ride provided by one of the most purely entertaining genre pics of its era.
Long before he tackled The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin told at least part of the life story of Steve Jobs, the legendary co-founder of Apple, in this 2015 biopic. Michael Fassbender gives one of his best performances in the title role, but the ensemble really makes this piece, including Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen in two of the best performances of their respective careers.
The wonderfully talented Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Spring) directed this 2019 sci-fi film that featured their biggest budget and most ambitious story to date. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan star as paramedics who discover that a new street drug called Synchronic has some incredible powers, namely time travel. It’s a hard movie to describe, but something you need to see before your friend recommends it to you.
One of Martin Scorsese’s early masterpieces, Taxi Driver is the wildly influential story of a man pushed off the edge of sanity, featuring a fearless performance from a young Robert De Niro. Few movies from this era are cited more than this one, and it’s not just because it touches on themes that remain timeless but that it does so in such a riveting, harrowing way.
One of the best films of the ‘00s, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! won Daniel Day-Lewis his second Oscar as the unforgettable Daniel Plainview. As detailed and epic as great fiction, Anderson’s movie is one of the most acclaimed of its era, a film in which it’s hard to find a single flaw. Even if you think you’ve seen it enough, watch it again. You’ll find a new reason to admire it.
Ben Affleck directed an excellent adaptation of a Chuck Hogan novel about a group of Boston bank robbers who plan to rob Fenway Park. The public persona of the man who played Batman has overshadowed his undeniable filmmaking talent, evident in how tight and entertaining the movie is from beginning to end, as well as his great work with an ensemble that includes Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Pete Postlethwaite.
Wolfgang Petersen rode his fame as an action director to make a massive, big-budget version of Homer’s Iliad, and it ended up being one of the highest grossing films of 2004. Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom lead a massively talented ensemble in an old-fashioned epic film that recalls the era of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments.
At first, the Coen brothers didn’t seem a logical fit for a remake of a beloved John Wayne Western, but they really made the story their own. One of the ways they did that was through directing a fantastic ensemble, led by Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon — and, of course, their undeniable craftsmanship.
Fernando Meirelles (City of God) directs this fascinating two-hander starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as the last and current Popes. The majority of Anthony McCarten’s script is a conversation between the two in the days when Pope Benedict handed off papal duties to Pope Francis, using that context to examine modern faith and how it has to change in the new century. Hopkins is very good but the real draw here is arguably the best performance of Jonathan Pryce’s remarkable career.
Adam Sandler earned some of the best reviews of his career for this tense drama/thriller about a New York jeweler who has a little bit of a gambling problem. As he spirals the drain of life, he tries to sell a rare gem and make money on a Celtics playoff game. Vibrant and anxiety-inducing, it’s one of the best movies of 2019, and it’s already on Netflix.
Gavin O’Connor co-wrote and directed a compelling drama about estranged brothers who reconnect in a mixed martial arts ring. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are phenomenal as the guys who are forced to deal with the scars still left from a life with an alcoholic father, played so well by Nick Nolte that he landed his last Oscar nomination for it. Warrior made little impact at the box office but has been a consistent fan favorite on cable, DVD, and streaming services.
It was announced in January 2021 that creatives are returning to the well again and telling a story of Willy Wonka’s early days before he opened his famous chocolate factory. There’s a reason this 1971 musical has stood the test of time for five decades, passed down as a beloved family film from generation to generation. Gene Wilder gives one of the most timeless performances ever. It will work its magic on kids forever.
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) wrote and directed this 2017 mystery that premiered at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. Jeremy Renner stars opposite his MCU pal Elizabeth Olsen as the two investigate a murder on Indigenous territory in Wyoming. It doesn’t all work, but Sheridan has a strong sense of space and tension that keeps it moving.
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