Where can one begin with the “Best Movies On Netflix” when there are so many great movies to choose from. With a vast and constantly updating catalogue, Netflix is one of the most reliable sources of entertainment on the web. It’s not just the web where Netflix’s success has taken off; three-quarters of Netflix users are content to claim that the service could replace a traditional cable package.
But just because it seems like you can watch everything on Netflix, that doesn’t mean you should watch just anything. Time is money, and spending a few hours watching something of no value is tantamount to literally throwing money away. Netflix is home to many superlative films, and when you have the chance to choose the best, why wouldn’t you? There’s nothing wrong with the occasional “brain-dead” watch — be it thoughtless but funny comedies or quirky B-movies — but with its cornucopia of great cinema, Netflix makes it easy for viewers to not have to compromise on quality. Best of all, viewers don’t have to compromise on time; they can watch instantly, or queue it up for later viewing. Either way, a quality screening session is in order.
So if you’re wanting to watch something you won’t forget this weekend, boot up Netflix and scroll through the highly rated choices. If, however, you’re looking for a little help in narrowing down the expansive Netflix listings, each of the options below will make for a memorable night in at the movies. Netflix has come far since its introduction as a mail-order DVD rental service in 1997. Now producing its own “Netflix Originals” and stepping up as a platform for movie releases as we saw with The Interview and will see again in August when Netflix hosts the US premier of The Little Prince, Netflix is quickly becoming a staple in homes of every kind.
As it continues to rise to a culture-defining status it’s garnering more and more top titles from films in every genre and making consistent new additions to its already extensive digital library. Be it an eighties classic, indie drama, new documentary, action thriller, or casual rom-com, the Netflix of today is sure to sate your interests.
The only downside to this influx of some of the best movies on Netflix? Figuring out which one to watch next! The films listed for you below are not only top-rated (as Netflix may ditch their 5-star rating system in the near-future, films are listed in descending order by their respective Rotten Tomato rankings) and widely talked about, they’re the kind of movies that all kinds of viewers resonate with. Watch ‘em before they’re gone!
The Absolute Best Movies On Netflix
Bo Burnham: Make Happy
Some might contest listing Make Happy as a “movie,” thinking it a stand-up special rather than a film proper. But beginning with 2013’s incredible special what., the young comedian Bo Burnham has expanded the capabilities of what can be done in a comedy show. Rather than pacing back and forth on a stage firing off jokes and observations, Burnham brings in a coterie of techniques from musical performance and theatre to give a broader definition of a stand-up set. what. even features a lengthy, lip-syncing open that parodies his status as a comedian. Burnham’s latest special Make Happy, a Netflix exclusive, goes a step beyond the innovative what., expanding comedy not just through formal creativity but also dramatic heft. Make Happy is Burnham’s most self-reflexive work to date; in it, he explores the sadness that lingers beneath his (and other celebrities’) desire to be a performer, and how despite fame, success, and blind luck, a performer such as himself can still be unhappy. Skillfully shot (Burnham co-directed the special), laugh-out-loud funny, and even tear-jerking, Make Happy is further evidence that when it comes to comedy, no one innovates like Bo Burnham.
Across the Universe
Julie Taymor’s 2007 Beatles musical famously divided critics, but for this writer’s money, the film is an underrated gem. Set in the late ’60s, just as tensions over the Vietnam War in the United States are about to rise to a boil, Across the Universe takes a fairly generic story of star-crossed lovers (Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood) that becomes increasingly non-generic through the movie’s innovative pastiche structure. In making the musical, Taymor and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais collected over 30 tunes by the Beatles, spanning the well-known (“Hey Jude,” “I Am the Walrus”) to the obscure (“Happiness is a Warm Gun,” given a knockout rendition by actor Joe Anderson), and from those songs had to contrive a plot. Though at times the plot becomes threadbare as it gives way to some digression scenes, including a sprightly take on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by Eddie Izzard, Across the Universe isn’t really a film memorable for its plot. Instead, its stunning visuals — Taymor is at her best here — and catchy takes on Beatles classics make it a wholly memorable movie musical.
On the subject of underrated films, Antoine Fuqua’s oft-overlooked 2004 swords-and-battles picture King Arthur is an action flick that’s deserving of a second look. Admittedly, the film is part of that somewhat problematic trend of the “gritty reboot,” which for every success (Batman Begins) there is a corresponding flop (Man of Steel). But if one can push past the dubious marketing claims used to promote the film (which announce that Fuqua’s Arthur, played by Clive Owen, is the “true” historical Arthur), what she’ll find is a stunningly shot action flick with quality acting, slick swordfights, and even some existential rumination. (King Arthur imagines that Arthur took after the Christian heretic Pelagius, who believed humans were born morally neutral.) If the theatrical version — which is available on Netflix — piques your interest, it’s worth checking out the unrated director’s cut, which features more visceral swordfights and a more powerful version of the main story.
Featuring a stellar cast headed up by Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, and Clive Owen, Spike Lee’s 2006 heist flick Inside Man is a masterclass in tension. Lee is typically known for his films that explore race and class in America, such as She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing –which he is most known for — and Malcom X. Themes of race, class, and political corruption are undoubtedly present in Inside Man, but the most attention-grabbing aspects of the movie have to do with the core heist, which is powered by the negotiations between thief Dalton Russell (Owen) and hostage negotiator Keith Frazier (Washington). Suspenseful in its action and subtle in its politics, Inside Man is an action thriller with a lowkey braininess.
Diving deep into the subject matter of the Neopolitan mafia — that is, the Italian mafia group centered in Naples — is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who want to take a risk. Such was the case for the author Roberto Saviano, who after publishing a nonfiction book called Gomorrah, which documents the illegal exploits of the Naples-based Camorra crime ring, was placed under protection out of concern for his life. Saviano clearly hit a nerve with Gomorrah; the “non-fiction” appellation is a definite understatement for the book, as it was instrumental in helping further expose the extent of corruption in Naples. Matteo Garrone’s 2008 film version of Gomorrah similarly packs no punches in its depiction of crime life in Naples. At over two hours, this film is a heavyweight viewing experience; some preparation is in order before being fully ready to experience this unflinching look at a city in turmoil.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman crafted one of the most memorable films of the ’00s in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — ironic, since the film’s primary conceit is a debate over whether or not some memories are worth holding on to. The film opens with a man and a woman, Joel (Jim Carrey, in a fine dramatic turn) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), meeting on a train. Though at first pass this appears to be a first meeting, in fact Joel and Clementine have not only met before; they’ve also dated. After a rough patch in their relationship, Clementine hired a firm straight out of a sci-fi novel called Lacuna, which erases her memories of Joel. Upon discovering Clementine’s actions, Joel himself decides to undergo the procedure. Once he’s put to sleep for the operation, however, his subconscious puts up a fight. Wildly inventive and chock full of heart, Eternal Sunshine is an unconventional love story, but it’s also one of the best.
The second film by director and The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade, The Double (an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name), is a thrilling and stylish affair. Much like Denis Villenueve’s Enemy, also released in 2013, The Double explores a disquieting situation: what if, one day, you came across someone who didn’t just resemble you, but looked exactly like you? This is the situation faced by the mild-mannered, antsy office worker Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), who is forced to reckon with a new coworker, James Simon (also Eisenberg), who not only looks exactly like him but is everything he is not when it comes to personality. James is charming, cocksure, and conniving; in James’ shadow, Simon is diminished. The Double takes this simple premise and filters it through a hall of mirrors. Whatever you think you seeing, you probably aren’t. In that way, The Double is cinematic magic.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Though it’s technically classed as a spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is best summarized by the shot above. There’s lots of men in conference rooms, sitting at tables, talking tensely about the various intrigues of the Cold War. On the surface that kind of structure may sound a bit drab — and, indeed, Tinker Tailor‘s approach to the thriller genre is a lot more British than American — but with Hoyte van Hoytema’s smoky cinemaphotography and a superlative cast (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch) this admittedly slow-burning thriller is easy to get lost (and paranoid) in. That’s not to say that no guns are drawn — to be sure, this is a proper spy film, which means there are plenty of pistols — but with the film’s source material taken into consideration (a novel by John le Carre), this snail’s-pace approach to Cold War politics makes sense. The Cold War wasn’t a war about bombs; it was a war about the threat of bombs. So it is too with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; it’s not a picture with explosive action sequences, but in terms of sustained suspense, it packs the wallop of a Michael Bay movie, albeit with much more subtlety and superior craftsmanship.
Francis Ford Coppola, 1972
All the violence, betrayal, action and family values you can expect to find in a classic, Italian-American mafia tale.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
From the critics: “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” –Vincent Canby, NY Times
Short Term 12
Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013
Something of a melancholy comedy, Short Term 12 follows Grace, a counselor at a home for kids extricated from many variations of traumatic backgrounds. Perks of a Wallflower, grown-up and stripped of it’s hipster glow might be one way to describe it. Fully honest without sacrificing viewer experience, the film is refreshingly real while still weaving a great storyline for viewers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
From the critics: “’Short Term 12’ is a small gem in which the uplift feels earned rather than preached.” —Roger Ebert
Good Will Hunting
Gus Van Sant, 1997
A true genius, self-taught Will Hunting has no degree to his name and primarily uses his intellect to shut-up pretentious Harvard boys in bars and to evade jail by acting as his own lawyer defending various charges of theft and assault. That is, until a professor in the university Will works for as a janitor discovers his brilliant mind and, along with an old friend (Robin Williams), pushes Will to be something great. An inspiring story that’s heartwarming with an edge, this independent film will have you hooked from the start.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
From the critics: “Rich in tone, ‘Good Will Hunting’ is funny, nonchalant, moving and angry, effortlessly alternating its various moods, often within the same scene.” –Emanuel Levy, Variety
Wes Anderson, 2012
With his compass and her binoculars, 12-year-olds, Suzy and Sam navigate the land of New Penzance and their feelings for eachother as young runaways in love. An impressive balancing act between realism and fantasy, Wes Anderson’s seventh feature is netflix treasure. Appropriately dubbed a “wondrous storybook tale” by the NY Times (see more below) following its 2012 release, watching Moonrise Kingdom feels like living in a dream you hope won’t end.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
From the critics: “[Anderson] draws you into his fantastical worlds with beauty and humor, and while their artifice can keep you at somewhat of a distance, this only deepens the story’s emotional power.” –Manohla Dargis, NY TImes
Silver Linings Playbook
David O’Russell, 2012
A testament to the strangeness of falling in love and the beauty of finding one who understands you, Silver Linings Playbook is both relatable and extraordinary. A quirky story of weird love and psychotic normalcy, watching Pat and Tiffany fall for eachother is an experience that will have you laughing and crying in this modern-classic romance full of depth and humor.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
From the critics: “Only in Hollywood can mental illness be cured by moonstruck fantasy. […] Tinged with shadows and ignited by Lawrence and Cooper, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ raises the bar on romantic comedy.” –Pete Travers, Rolling Stone
To Kill a Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan, 1962
If the last time you watched To Kill a Mockingbird was in a high school english class, this recent Netflix addition makes a perfect excuse to return to the heartwarming and heartbreaking American classic. A story many know and love, the still-poignant film has proven itself to be as resilient as the book in withstanding the test of time.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
From the critics: “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a time capsule, preserving hopes and sentiments from a kinder, gentler, more naive America.” —Roger Ebert (2001)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001
Colorful and charming, Amelie is a visual treat. The story begins with the discovery of a boy’s long-forgotten toys in Amelie’s apartment and spins into a fantastical adventure of finding happiness and many kinds of love. Set in magical Paris, the french adventure is as entertaining as it is heartfelt, and a complete delight to watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
From the critics: “You see it, and later when you think about it, you smile.” —Roger Ebert
Sam Mendes, 1999
The self-discovery of a disenchanted suburban husband upon quitting his job is the core from which various stories and social commentaries stem in American Beauty. Strange and unexpected turns in narrative, artistic and highly intentional cinematography, clearly deliberate development of theme, film-making within a film, and Kevin Spacey before Frank Underwood are just a few of components of the film that pique interest.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
From the critics: “American Beauty is a triumph of acting, writing and directing that defies glib description. Is the film farce, tragedy, thriller, fantasy, sitcom, skin flick or moral fable? Yes to all of the above” –Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Cary Fukunaga, 2011
A young governess, handsome brooding master of the house, and a dark secret hiding deep in a mansion, this haunting drama is a portrayal of the gothic romance Charlotte Bronte herself could be proud of. With stunning visuals and mystery lurking just around every corner Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre will draw you in and keep even those who know the story riveted through to the end.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
From the critics: “A splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie. Neither a radical updating nor a stiff exercise in middlebrow cultural respectability, Mr. Fukunaga’s film tells its venerable tale with lively vigor and an astute sense of emotional detail.” –A. O. Scott, NY Times
Into the Wild
Sean Penn, 2007
Leaving bank accounts, family, stability and identity behind, a recent college graduate, Christopher McCandless, goes off the grid in a quest to reach Alaska and a life of self-sustainability. With cuts between Chris’ Alaskan destination and the journey that got him there, Into the Wild is intriguing and inspiring as well as philosophical. While the Eddie Vedder soundtrack alone is worth the watch, you just might come away from this Walden-esque tale looking at life a little differently.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
From the critics: “This is a serious, personal movie about what it is to be human, and what happens when we admire nature more than humanity: does it make us less than human, or do we fulfil and even transcend our humanity?” –Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
The Netflix experience can only continue to increase in quality. How many of these classic films have you seen?
The films mentioned above may be few in number, but they are superlative in quality and certainly the best movies available on Netflix, in our opinion! With Netflix quality and quantity are not anathema to each other; sure, there are some dubious titles to be found in Netflix, but there’s also a lot of standout material. The uncountable amount of movies in Netflix means it’s okay to be picky, and if you’re going to be picky, you should pick the best.
Best Movies On Netflix – Honorable Mentions
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
This is the sequel to the 1998 film Elizabeth. It stars Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I and is visually stunning; it won an Academy Award for its beautiful costumes, and it was filmed on location in Britain in places such as Westminster Cathedral. This, in addition to Cate Blanchett’s excellent performance and the array of other talented actors (such as Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen and Eddie Redmayne) make it an interesting watch. It is, however, more of a drama than a biographical film, so history-lovers beware–the writers tweaked the timeline of Elizabeth’s reign to pack as much narrative punch as possible.
Queen Elizabeth I of England may have ushered in a Golden Age for Britain, but that was no easy thing. First, she must deal with a contender for the crown–Mary, Queen of Scots, whose Babington Plot threatens Elizabeth’s life–and the looming advances of the Spanish Empire, whose powerful Armada threatens England’s shores. All the while, she must also field a stream of suitors and the wishes of her own heart, which pines after the dashing Sir Walter Raleigh.
Starring the young Ella Parnell, whose other work includes Disney’s Maleficent and the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, this movie was filmed on location in Alaska and has received extraordinarily positive reviews. Viewers praise the spectacular scenery, the well-handled emotional content, Frank Hall Green’s excellent direction, and the engaging story that this movie has to offer.
It follows a young girl who, due to a turbulent home life, goes to live with her uncle in Alaska. However, when that house proves unhealthy as well, shes runs away in an attempt to return to her mother–but ends up traversing the wilderness with a solitary backpacker who suffers from his own scars.
The Looking Glass
This film, while heartfelt and well done, is very little known. It makes good use of beautiful scenery, and its lead actors–Dorothy Tristan and Grace Tarnow–played their roles superbly in this coming-of-age tale.
When her mother dies, a young girl struggling with depression goes to live with her grandmother–who is suffering from Alzheimers, and knows her time is limited. Despite this, she wants to connect with her granddaughter, and the two manage to bond when they discover a talent–and a passion–that they share.
This drama features exceptional performances by Olivia Wide and Luke Wilson. The story is pretty dark, though, so if you’re looking for something uplifting, you might want to keep scrolling. However, it provides a very honest, uncompromising tale told with talented actors and masterful cinematography.
When a young couple loses their son, they each must find a way to work through their devastation. The husband, seeks a fairly traditional path to healing, but begins to lose sight of what is right and wrong. His wife, on the other hand, embarks upon a potentially self-destructive odyssey as she tries to deal with the tragedy that has befallen her family.
This is another international film, this time Italian. It was released to worldwide critical acclaim, raking in awards and nominations from numerous organizations across Europe, as well as being pleasing to the average viewer for everything from unbiased realism to its great direction under Alice Rohrwacher.
A family of Italian beekeepers is struggling to makes ends meet. In order to secure a little more income, they take in a troubled boy and participate in a TV show competition, which could bring them a nice heap of price-money–but also brings a TV crew to film their daily lives. The family must find a way to deal with the stresses these changes bring.
This one is a classic, a beloved piece of American pop culture. It begins the story of the rather catastrophic dinosaur theme park endeavors that gave birth to a four-film franchise. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Sam Niell, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough, this movie doesn’t just excite with fast-paced action–it keeps you on the edge of your seat with its masterful use of suspense, and its excellent effects (that is, its dinosaurs) awaken a sense of childlike wonder.
In Jurassic Park, a team of scientists under the enthusiastic John Hammond are developing a dinosaur theme park using real live dinosaurs that they grew from DNA retrieved from a mosquito preserved in amber. To alleviate investor concerns over the safety of the park, they bring in three experts–a paleontologist, a paleobotanist, and a mathematician specializing in chaos theory. But when a bad storm crashes over the island park, the security systems fail and everyone on the island must face ancient predators like a pack of clever velociraptors, a venom-spitting dilophosaurus, and the iconic tyrannosaurus rex.
By the way, two of this movie’s sequels–The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III–are now available on Netflix as well, and are also well worth a watch.
This dry comedy is another film that has been distinguished by numerous awards on an international scale. It is very well-balanced, straddling the line between being ridiculous and thought-provoking, which makes it an engaging watch.
In The Treasure, a man whose pocketbook is running dangerously thin takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to fixing his financial straits–he embarks upon something of a wild goose chase, searching for buried treasure on his family’s old land, accompanied by his neighbor, with whom he agrees to split the profits.
Talvar (known in English as Guilty, though the title actually means “sword”) is an Indian crime drama based upon a real case in Noida. It is an overall good movie, which stayed pretty true to the actual events of the case and made full use of its cast and crew’s plentiful talents.
When the investigative efforts of local law enforcement prove insufficient to shed light on the murder of a young woman and her family’s servant, detective Ashwin Kumar steps in. He makes good headway despite trouble in his personal life–until a change in power within his agency results in an overly-ambitious inspector joining the investigation. He and Kumar quickly come to odds, but the outcome of the investigation still depends on them.
How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)
Despite being lauded–and awarded–for its excellent direction and acting, How to win at Checkers (Every Time) is a very little-known flick. However, the loving family ties depicted in it, on top of its expert execution, make for a rewarding watch.
An orphaned young boy, concerned for his future and his older brother, begins stealing so that he can pay the necessary bribe to remove his brother from Thailand’s military draft. But–as bribes often do–this has consequences he does not foresee.