Netflix has plenty of movies to watch but there's a real mixed bag on there. Sometimes finding the right film at the right time can seem like an impossible task. This is particularly the case now Netflix's film rating system is a percentage rather than a numerical rating. So, to help you in this most important of tasks, we've compiled a list of the good films on Netflix.
If you decide you're in more of a TV mood, head over to our best Netflix TV series or picks of the best documentaries. We have a whole separate list of the best sci-fi movies and the best films on Amazon Prime UK.
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A Senegalese romance, a story of construction workers turned migrants and a paranormal revenge tale; Mati Diop's genre-busting Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year. Netflix showed its impeccable taste in international films by picking it up. The first time feature director takes her time as she follows seventeen year-old Ada, who is in love with Soulemaine – one of the workers at sea – but obliged to marry another man and Issa, a police officer who gets mixed up in the lives of Ada and the women left behind in Dakar. Diop uses genre tropes and traditional folklore to get under the skin of families, corruption and class in urban Senegal.
Don't pay attention to the reviews – American Son is well worth a watch on a rainy afternoon when you can't afford tickets to the theatre. This stage adaptation of a black mother's anguish over her missing son has changed little from a traditional play: it is claustrophobically contained inside the waiting room of a police station, which serves as the main setting for the show. Kerry Washington is masterful as Kendra, a mother openly desperate to find out where her 18 year old son is and blocked at every turn by an openly racist police officer. It tackles segregation, racism, sexism and police brutality in one hour and 30 minutes in a way that will make your stomach churn. The film, like the play before it, generated a wealth of critics that felt its one note of anger and sometimes laboured dialogue failed to adequately tackle modern day racism. Does it fail as an important look at race relations? Yes. But it provides plenty to think about in a way that sticks in your mind long after it's over – and you'll watch a play in the the best seat in the house.
Christopher Nolan is but one man orchestrating this Dunkirk evacuation but he's also got the stunning work of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema on the ground and composer Hans Zimmer soaring overhead. Suitably daring, both visually and conceptually, the cast is a mix of Nolan regulars (Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy) young faces you probably won't recognise and Harry Styles doing just fine. This is a tense World War II retelling, which sees the writer-director permitting the warmth and compassion of Dunkirk into his cold, intellectual heart. And in an age where every film seems to clock in at way over two hours, kudos to Nolan for bringing his three interweaving Operation Dynamo strands to an affecting close in one hour and 45 minutes.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sent into the future to shoot Bruce Willis in the face. What’s not to love? Sci-fi classic Looper does that thing that all great sci-fi does: it makes you think. The film’s premise sounds simple enough: it tells the story of contract killers, known as loopers, who are sent back in time to kill people. Their final act, as the name suggests, is to kill themselves. Loop closed. Job done. If only things were that simple. When the film’s two protagonists collide it sets off a truly mind-bending series of events that make sci-fi this thriller a prime candidate to watch again and again and again.
After more than 75 years as part of popular culture, Wonder Woman finally got her big screen solo movie debut in 2017. Given DC Films' poor track record with superhero movies of late – we're looking at you Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman – there was genuine reason to worry if Wonder Woman was going to be worth the screen time. Thankfully, Gal Gadot's depiction of the superhero was a triumph and makes required watching before the sequel is one of 2020's new must watch films.
Dolemite Is My Name
After the credits roll on Dolemite Is My Name, we guarantee you'll be 10,000 times more likely to go out and stage a horndog nude photo shoot for your next cult comedy record. The only person having anywhere near as much fun as Eddie Murphy, playing real life club comedian/singer Rudy Ray Moore, is Wesley Snipes, goofing around as the actor-director D'Urvill Martin. Together with a madcap crew, they make a truly terrible 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu movie based on Moore's pimp alter ego, Dolemite. A brash, OTT showbiz movie with a heart of gold, there's shades of The Disaster Artist and music legend biopics. And with the cast flexing in Ruth Carter's glorious costumes – the suits! – and a couple of triumphant sex and shoot out scenes, it's a wild ride, whether you know the original story or not.
How did a Panamanian law firm orchestrate the biggest global tax evasion operation of all time? In The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh takes an incredibly dry (yet important) real story and makes it into one of the weirdest films released in the last year. Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman play Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, the despicable scoundrels running a scandal-ridden Panamanian law firm as it slowly collapses. Meryl Streep plays a widow turned amateur detective whose husband could not collect insurance because it was tied to a shell company that doesn't exist – then bizarrely dresses up in disguise as a Panamanian employee. If you don't know about the scandal this film won't help to explain it, but it's certainly entertaining.
Richard Curtis is known for his cute British rom-coms and About Time is no exception. On his 21st birthday, Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson, discovers he has the ability to time travel, and immediately uses it to omit embarrassing moments and get himself a girlfriend. He meets the girl of his dreams, played by Rachel McAdams and pops through time to woo her. It’s less about the sci fi than you would think, and more about the life and loves of the characters, with a father-son relationship that will have you in tears between Tim and his dad, played by Bill Nighy.
Things seem rosy for all of five minutes in Marriage Story, which follows the protracted and heartbreaking divorce of a theatre director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson). Driver and Johansson put on a masterclass in emotionally honest acting, so it's little surprise the film has picked up nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress as well as a Best Supporting Actress nod for Laura Dern and further nominations for Best Screenplay and Original Score.
Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon all star in this Coen brothers adaptation of a 1968 novel by Charles Portis, which became a classic. It follows Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old (played by Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a US Marshal (Bridges) to track down her father's killer (Brolin) and seek vengeance. The film, which stuck closer to the events of the book than the 1969 movie adaptation starring John Wayne, received widespread critical acclaim, including ten Oscar nominations.
Kind of a greatest hits album for the gangster movie, The Irishman marks Netflix's latest aggressive move into Hollywood's turf. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it features a stellar cast including Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, and follows the true-ish story of Frank Sheeran, an Irish delivery driver who gets drawn into a career as a mob hitman. Told over many decades, it uses digital technology to age and de-age its characters.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This time the board game goes digital: four teenagers are sucked into a deadly video game version of Jumanji, where the only way out is to win (and not die). The big twist is that each of the teens are playing a character that is at odds with their real life selves. A nerd becomes a strong hero and a popular image-conscious girl becomes Jack Black. The Jumanji remake reflects the original, but brings fresh twist to the title.
Colin has three days left on his probation and he’s trying to stay out of trouble. In this genuinely funny, yet incredibly tense indie film from 2018, Colin and his best friend from childhood Miles, played by writers Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and Rafael Casal, are our guides to the rapidly gentrifying Oakland, California. Like a couple of low key Spike Lees, Diggs and Casal take on police brutality, racial and cultural identity and green juice-drinking hipsters with surreal set pieces and violent confrontations interspersed with hip hop interludes. There’s no cardboard cut-out characters and Blindspotting puts as much care into the comedy scrapes – selling used hair straighteners in a salon – as it does the complicated issues in need of this kind of social commentary.
Kong: Skull Island
The 'MonsterVerse' is in full swing now with Godzilla vs. Kong one of the new films coming in 2020 and Kong: Skull Island serves as a reboot for the big man himself. In Skull Island, a scientific team is escorted by the US military to survey the eponymous island, but the folk from monster wranglers Monarch know all too well what the real deal is. Chaos ensues with Tom Hiddlestone's expert hunter joining Brie Larson's photojournalist and a band of survivors as they try to escape the island. Samuel L. Jackson also stars as a soldier intent on revenge for his men. There's nothing clever about Kong: Skull Island, but it's an entertaining romp that's easy to enjoy.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story
The last scene of Breaking Bad, the hit show about a chemistry teacher who turns into a meth dealer with the help of a former student, we see Jesse Pinkman fleeing from a compound where he was held captive for months by a group of white supremacists. El Camino picks up the action right where it left off, to answer the question that show creator Vince Gilligan was repeatedly asked: what happened to Jesse? Unlike the slower-paced prequel Better Call Saul, the movie has the frenetic feel of a Breaking Bad episode, with creative camerawork and moments of exquisite tension. There's plenty of fan service too, with cameos from pretty much all of your favourite characters, and an answer to the mystery of Walter White's ultimate fate.
Call Me By Your Name
'Somewhere in Northern Italy', summer 1983, is the setting for Luca Guadagnino's jaw droppingly gorgeous romantic drama from 2017. The story of Elio, a too-sophisticated-by-half teen (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver, a classical statue come to life (Armie Hammer), is sweet and slow and its inclusion in the catalogue almost makes up for the sometimes insulting 'rom coms' elsewhere on Netflix. Expect a sequel.
When Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) learns he has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the self-satisfied writer takes his family with him on a trip to Sweden to receive his award. But while Pryce luxuriates in the adulation, his relationship with his wife Joan – played by Glenn Close – starts to unravel. Switching between the present-day and flashbacks to the beginning of the Castlemans' relationship in the 1950s, it quickly becomes clear that Joan had literary ambitions of her own before slipping into the role of gracious and accommodating spouse of a conceited rising star. But when a persistent biographer (Christian Slater) starts buttering up the couple in an attempt to write the author's biography, it emerges that Joan may be much more than the receding and supportive partner that she seems to be.
Based on a novel of the same name, The Revenant is a story of revenge. Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is guiding a band of trappers through 1820s America. However things turn nasty when the group are attacked by an Arikara war party. After the attack Glass's son, Hawk, is brutally murdered. From here on, Glass sets out on a gripping adventure to avenge his child. Its Oscar record speaks for itself. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and came away with three wins, including the Best Actor gong for DiCaprio.
Adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name and directed by David Fincher, Gone Girl is a masterful psychological thriller. Ben Affleck stars as an aimless and unfaithful husband who becomes prime suspect when his wife, played brilliantly by Rosamund Pike, goes missing. From the sociopathic lead characters to the hysterical response to the disappearance, Gone Girl is an unreal, unconformable and strangely compelling film with all the forensic style we've come to expect from Fincher's work.
A breakup movie that is really about the joy of female friendship and the pain of growing old, Someone Great is powered by the chemistry between its three lead actors: Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise. Rodriguez stars as Jenny, a journalist who simultaneously lands her dream job in San Francisco and breaks up with her boyfriend of nine years. To lift her out of her gloom, Jenny enlists her two best friends for one last adventure in New York City. Although the film sets itself up as a series of comic capers (like Superbad or Dazed and Confused), it really finds its heart in the relationship between the three leads and their mutual support as they attempt to muddle through life – it's like picking up with the cast of Booksmart and finding out they've really gotten into drugs in the intervening 13 years.
Blade Runner 2049
More than 35 years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 still manages to succeed in the way its predecessor did. Want proof? It took $259 million at box offices around the world. While the sequel see Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos return in their roles from the original, Ryan Gosling (playing K) is the perfect non-human human. The film wants you to question your interactions with the technology around us and ponder whether the machines will ever take over, and does so masterfully..
Based on a true story, Spotlight follows a team of investigative reporters at The Boston Globe newspaper as they uncover a horrific history of systemic child abuse and subsequent cover-ups within the Catholic Church. Rather than casting the journalists as heroes, director Tom McCarthy details the painstaking process that it takes to break such a major story: cajoling sources, gathering information and taking first-hand accounts of abuse. The film is made all the more shocking by the fact that despite the child abuse going back decades, it took until 2002 – and only after the relentless determination of The Boston Globe – for the story to finally reach the public.
The best films of 2019
Sometimes a film is almost impossible to categorise; such is the case with Velvet Buzzsaw. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, an art critic whose influence means he has the art world wrapped around his little finger. What starts as an acerbic send-up of the high-end art scene soon turns into a very different film, however, when Morf’s friend/lover Josephina (Zawe Ashton) discovers a cache of haunted paintings left behind by a mysterious dead artist. Thus begins a kind of supernatural Final Destination plot, with character after character suffering increasingly bizarre deaths by contemporary artwork. Not one for the squeamish.
The Big Short
Witty, outrageous and at times chilling, The Big Short will reaffirm your cynicism of Wall Street. Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling to name a few, this comedy-drama was one of the more unexpected films to come out of 2015. Originally a book by Michael Lewis on the financial crash, this BAFTA and Academy Award winning adaptation brings to the screen the crisis of 2008 and its roots. Be prepared to be enlightened and enraged.
Always Be My Maybe
Written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe tells the story of two inseparable childhood friends whose lives veer dramatically apart after a grief-stricken rendezvous in their teenage years. Wong plays Sasha Tran, a superstar chef whose stratospheric career barely papers over the cracks in her faltering relationship. Park, meanwhile, plays Marcus Kim, whose ambitions have taken him no further than the local dive bar and his father's air conditioning firm. Fate – and a bizarre cameo from Keanu Reeves – conspire to bring the two leads back together in a film that at long last lifts Asian Americans outside of Hollywood's clichéd casting and into a thoughtful and hilarious romantic comedy.
The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne picked up an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in this moving biopic, which documents the life of the renowned astrophysicist from his student days at Cambridge University through the early years of his career. It focuses on his relationship with Jane Wilde, and the rapid progression of the motor neurone disease that would confine him to a wheelchair for much of his life.
Ron Howard's pulse-quickening biopic harks back to an era when Formula 1 was packed with larger than life characters. It tells the story of the epic rivalry between Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) during the 1976 F1 season, and the former's remarkable recovery from a fiery crash at the Nurburgring. A remarkable true story that is all the more poignant in the wake of Lauda's recent death.
The Silence of the Lambs
In 2003, psychiatrist-turned-cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter – played expertly by a terrifying Anthony Hopkins – topped a list of the greatest villains in cinematic history compiled by the American Film Institute. This iconic movie sees Lecter engaged in a psychological battle of wits with novice FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, who needs his help to track down another serial killer before he strikes again. It won the Big Five (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay) at the Oscars - only the third film ever to do so (After It Happened One Night, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann’s star-studded 2013 adaptation is visually stunning – it won Oscars for both production and costume design – but perhaps lacks the depth of the novel, which carefully skewered the excesses of The Jazz Age years before it all came crashing down. Leonardo di Caprio plays the titular millionaire, with Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton rounding out the awkward love triangle that forms the core of the plot, and Tobey Maguire in full blank canvas mode as narrator Nick Carraway. Watch it on a big screen, with a mojito.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
After being caught in the backseat of a car having sex with her best friend, Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to a gay conversion camp by her devout aunt. Subjected to the repressive regime by camp guides who claim that their regime can help "cure" young people of their homosexuality, Post finds herself drawn to two of the camp's rebellious outcasts.
Sport is really about data. That's the view of baseball manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who can't compete with the big budgets of rival clubs. To add salt to his wounds, three of his best players have just moved to a rival team. Instead of trying to raise more money, he decides to improve his Oakland Athletics side using statistics rather than tradition wisdom. The movie, which was nominated for six Oscars including Best Actor and Best Picture, is based on the real-life story, and book, about the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
Based on the memoir of Saroo Brierley, Lion follows the life of a young boy who is separated from his mother and younger sister in Khandwa, India, when he is just five years old. The film picks up with Saroo (Dev Patel) 20 years later, now living with his adoptive parents in Australia. When he moves to Melbourne to start university, Saroo finds himself determined to discover the story of his childhood and adoption – with a little help from Google Earth.
Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn star as fortysomething New Yorkers who are stuck in a endless cycle of fertility treatments and despair as they struggle to have a baby by any means possible. But when their young niece drops out of university to come stay with her creative aunt and uncle, their journey takes an unexpected turn. Private Life is hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure as it depicts a couple fixated on one goal, to the exclusion of all else – even their own relationship.
You’ll probably want to watch Birdman twice. On a first viewing, the film’s cinematography – ingenious though it is – becomes a distraction. Under the guidance of Emmanuel Lubezki, the entirety of this cult fable appears to be formed from a single, elaborate tracking shot. Watch it a second time and the dazzling cinematography becomes a character of its own in the dreamlike narrative. This is a darkly comic tale of a man haunted by his past facing an unfolding existential crisis. And, four years after its cinematic release, it’s still unlike almost anything else out there.
Beasts of No Nation
Only great things can come from the director of True Detectives, and with Beasts of No Nation Cary Fukunaga doesn’t disappoint. A compelling war drama film starring Idris Elba and shot in Ghana, it follows a young boy called Agu who lives in a small village, and who is forced to become a child soldier as his country is ripped apart by a brutal civil war. This is a poignant depiction of the devastation that war can bring to a family.
This art world farce from Swedish director Ruben Östlund makes for slightly uncomfortable but seriously funny viewing, like a two and a half hour episode of European, hipster Peep Show. You can’t look away but you can’t not look. The set pieces are sublime tributes to stupidity and even if it doesn’t quite match Östlund’s Force Majeure, Claes Bang (soon to play Dracula for Steven Moffat and the BBC) is magnetic as the muppet at the centre of the chaos.
This is without doubt one of the best children's films of the 1990s. Don’t agree? Stop reading. Matilda is a dark, witty and touching adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Danny DeVito is at his ludicrous, comic best, while Mara Wilson is a perfect fit for the understated but mischievous lead role. If you watched this film as a kid, it’s a great trip down memory lane. And even if you’re a bit too old for that, it’s still a great family film today.
Roma, Alfonso Cuaron's newest release since Gravity in 2013, is very different from any film he's made before. Set against the backdrop of unrest in Mexico City in the early 1970's, the film follows Cleo (Yalitizio Aparicia), who works as a housekeeper for a young, well-off family. The specificity of the film arises from Cuaron's direction, as the film is based on the life of the nanny who raised him, Libo, and much of the mis-en-scene in the film is actually from his childhood. While the film is in black and white, and entirely in Chilango Spanish, it's incredibly moving and absorbing, especially given how gorgeous the cinematography and direction is. Fans of Cuaron who have watched Gravity or Children of Men might be surprised, but this side of Cuaron is worth watching, and Roma is already generating Oscars buzz.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A lot is expected from each new Coen brothers film. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is something slightly different – but it still delivers. The movie is a set of six Wild West short stories. Each tale is about 15 minutes long, has its own cast and isn't connected to any of the others. The entire package is entertaining and the stories are well-told. By the time it finishes, you'll be wanting more.
A taut, clever crime thriller, Nightcrawler explores the world of 'stringers', freelance videographers who scour late night LA for violent events to film and then sell to local news TV stations. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou, who lucks into the trade and quickly discovers the profits to be made, especially when he bends the law for juicier material. Desperate to feed demand and ratings, a local morning news director (Rene Russo) doesn't care how the footage is obtained so long as it's good. An outstanding central performance from Gyllenhaal, who lost weight to portray the desperate Lou, drives the action forward and it features an early Hollywood appearance for Riz Ahmed as his sidekick, Rick.
Everyone in this period drama from director Dee Rees is trying to drag themselves out of the Mississippi mud, in one way or another. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) moves his young family to a farm on the Mississippi delta, although his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) is less than pleased by the news that he's also bringing his horribly racist father to live with them too. The Jackson family are tenants on the farm, led by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) who hopes he can work his way out of sharecropping and own his own slice of land one day. When Hap's son and Henry's brother return to Mississippi from World War II, the two men find themselves locked in a struggle against the ugly oppression of Jim Crow America.
Writer and director Alex Garland won numerous plaudits for his directorial debut Ex Machina, including Oscar and BAFTA nominations for best original screenplay. Annihilation is his second feature as a director and it's another serious, enthralling sci-fi exploration that's much better than its 'straight to Netflix' status would suggest.
Channelling a sci-fi horror vibe reminiscent of Soviet-era mind trip Stalker, Annihilation's main antagonist is a slowly expanding zone called The Shimmer in which all life is undergoing rapid and inexplicable mutation. Natalie Portman travels with an all-female team of scientists to try and reach the centre of The Shimmer and understand what's causing it, and what happened to her husband after his own journey into Area X. Cerebral and dream-like, it's
Dallas Buyers Club
Set in 1985 in Texas, a bigoted rodeo bull rider, Ron Woodroof, is diagnosed with AIDS. His refusal to accept his fate sends him on a journey to track down the drug AZT, the only known treatment. On his journey he meets a transgender business partner, who agrees to help him distribute the drug amongst the gay community. Based on a true story, Dallas Buyer Club is as harrowing as it is inspiring. Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, subverts the macho man, making him an unexpected hero to a generation of gay men. McConaughey's celebrated performance won him an Academy award and Golden Globe for Best Male Actor.
The Fundamentals of Caring
This on-the road indie flick is many things at once. Based on a novel by Jonathan Evison, it's heartwarming, witty, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud hilarious. The Fundamentals of Caring is lifted with just the right balance of dark comedy and drama making it both a poignant story and an easy watch. Paul Rudd stars as beaten-down Ben who decides to go on a course to become a carer after divorcing his wife, and Trevor (Craig Roberts) is wry, hilarious and complicated as the teenager Rudd begins caring for. It's refreshing to see disability presented in a way that feels honest without being afraid to address self-depreciation through comedy.