The streaming service has plenty of offerings, but sometimes finding the best movies on Netflix can be a real mixed bag. Sometimes finding the right film at the right slot demo gratis time can seem like an impossible task. Fret not, we’re here to help. Below is a list of some of our favorite movies currently on the streaming service—from dramas to comedies to thrillers.
If you decide you’re in more of a TV mood, head over to our collection of the best TV series on Netflix. Want more? Check out our lists of the best sci-fi movies, best movies on Amazon Prime, and the best flicks on Disney+.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you’re not an American boomer, the juxtaposition of the city of Chicago and number seven might mean little to you, but the formula stands for one of the causes célèbre of the Sixties. As anti-war, civil rights, and hippie activists involved in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Seven (theoretically eight) were picked as convenient scapegoats after the unrest was crushed at the behest of Mayor Richard Daley. Happening at the very end of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency—with the US reeling from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and Vietnam still devouring thousands of young people—the trial came to encapsulate the tensions tearing the country’s social fabric asunder. Director Aaron Sorkin takes a lot of liberties with historical facts (and leaves out some hilarious bits, like poet Allen Ginsberg’s testimony, that would have made for a showstopper) but The Trial of the Chicago 7 generally succeeds in conveying the sense of generational score-settling the court battle came to signify.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
You either “get” the Eurovision Song Contest or you don’t—and chances are, if you’re outside of Europe, you don’t. But whether you can recite every winner back to 1956 or have only maybe-sorta heard of ABBA, this Will Ferrell passion project (his Swedish wife, actress Viveca Paulin, hooked him on the contest) will entertain you. Following Icelandic singer-songwriter duo Fire Saga—Ferrell as Lars Erickssong and Rachel McAdams as his besotted bandmate Sigrit Ericksdóttir—its got something for everyone. For the Eurovision faithful, it’s a loving nod to the long-running music competition, packed with gleefully camp in-jokes and scene-stealing cameos from Eurovision royalty. To the uninitiated, it’s a wild, weird, comedy with plenty of hilariously farcical turns and enough catchy tunes to convert newcomers into Eurovision acolytes. Bonus: Uou’ll finally understand the “shut up and play Ja Ja Ding Dong!” meme.
Zombie movies often take themselves too seriously—but “serious” isn’t something the Zombieland franchise can be accused of. Released in 2009, Zombieland reenergized the horror-comedy genre, with a loose-knit group of survivors—college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), talented zombie slayer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and supersmart sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin)—searching for sanctuary from the undead. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s wry and self-aware script plays gleefully with the constraints of the zombie apocalypse, bringing the laughs with Columbus’ narrated survival rules or Tallahassee’s obsession with Twinkies. But it’s an incredible cameo by Bill Murray as himself that elevates the whole film. Clever, funny, and just the right level of gory, Zombieland is a blast.
The Two Popes
At first glance, The Two Popes is not a gripping proposition: a film where two very old men in dresses talk a lot, walk around a little bit, and then talk some more. But two top-notch performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins and a stellar script from Anthony McCarten turn this prosaic premise into a film worth watching. Loosely inspired by true events, it follows Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) as he tries to convince Pope Benedict XVI to accept his resignation. The two men couldn’t be more different—Benedict is an archconservative desperate to cling to tradition while Bergoglio is seen as a dangerous liberalizer who might erode the Church’s authority. While the two men battle out their differences, the future of Catholicism hangs in the balance.
Shipped from Peru to London, a young talking bear is found and taken in by the Brown family—much to the delight of children Jonathan and Judy and their mother Mary, but to the chagrin of patriarch Henry Brown. Named Paddington after the train station the Browns found him in, the well-meaning outsider causes chaos as he tries to settle into his new life, while avoiding the maniacal taxidermist Millicent Clyde. While Paddington could have been yet another cloying adaptation of a kids’ lit favorite, director Paul King and his phenomenal cast—including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman as Clyde, and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington himself—serve up a cosy family movie with a lot of heart, humor, and hijinks. Twee in places, but sure to put a smile on the face of even the most cynical viewer.
Headed by Jamie Foxx, this horror-action-comedy hybrid juxtaposes the night-bound tropes of the vampire genre against a sun-drenched Los Angeles, with Foxx’s struggling slayer Bud Jablonski stuck on the vampire hunter union’s lower-paying day shift. Overseen by bureaucratic union rep Seth (Dave Franco), the bickering buddy cop vibe gives way to a battle to save Bud’s family from a vampire with ambitions of godhood, as director J.J. Perry shows off the tricks he picked up as stunt coordinator on the John Wick and Fast & Furious franchises. With an awareness of its own ludicrous concept and a willingness to go wildly over the top—Snoop Dogg steals scenes as rotary cannon-wielding veteran slayer Big John—Day Shift delivers some of the most inventive fanger fights committed to film. It’s horror-comedy brain candy, but for a delightfully dumb action flick, this is one of the freshest in years.
For the Love of Spock
Directed by Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam Nimoy, this looks at the life and career of the famed Star Trek actor, and the impact his role as the highly logical science officer of the USS Enterprise had on pop culture as a whole. The documentary merges classic on-set and behind-the-scenes footage with interviews from Nimoy’s original Trek castmates, later actors and creators influenced by him—including Zachary Quinto, who played a younger Spock in the rebooted movie series—and even personal family photos, for a poignant look at Nimoy’s career. Yet despite having begun life as a Star Trek anniversary project, For the Love of Spock evolves into a celebration of Nimoy’s life beyond the bridge of a famous spaceship. It’s not just fan service for Star Trek fans—this also examines the sometimes rocky relationship between the elder Nimoy and his son, making for an even more personal and sometimes difficult viewing experience for those who only know of Spock the character, rather than Nimoy the man.
To her friends, Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) is a successful events executive and dedicated single mother to her daughter, Jae-yeong (Kim Si-a). In reality, she’s the star performer at MK Ent—an assassination bureau, where her almost superhuman ability to predict every step in a critical situation has earned her a 100 percent success rate and killer reputation. The only problem: She’s considering retiring at the end of her contract, a decision that opens her to threats from disgruntled enemies and ambitious colleagues alike. While its title and premise not-so-subtly evoke Tarantino’s Kill Bill, director Byun Sung-hyun takes this Korean action epic to giddy heights with some of the most impressive fights committed to screen since, well, Kill Bill.
Before winning Oscars and cementing his name in the Hollywood firmament for Parasite, Bong Joon-ho had something of a sideline in creature features. While 2006’s The Host remains worth hunting down, this 2017 saga of genetic engineering and animal exploitation may be the director’s pinnacle of the genre. After helping raise an enhanced “super pig” in rural South Korea, young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) is distraught when the American company behind its creation, Mirando, comes to take it back. Falling in with a group of Animal Liberation Front activists, Mija travels to Mirando’s headquarters in New York in a desperate effort to rescue her unlikely animal friend. Darkly satirical in places, Okja manages to explore themes of animal exploitation and environmental conservation without feeling preachy.
In a world already ravaged by a zombie-like plague, Andy Rose (Martin Freeman) only wants to keep his family safe, sticking to Australia’s most rural back roads to avoid infection. After his wife is tragically bitten, and infects him in turn, Andy is desperate to find a safe haven for his infant daughter, Rosie. With a mere 48 hours until he succumbs himself, Andy finds an ally in Thoomi (Simone Landers), an Aboriginal girl looking to protect her own rabid father—but with threats from paranoid survivalists and Aboriginal communities hunting the infected, it may already be too late. A unique twist on the zombie apocalypse, Cargo abandons the familiar urban landscapes of the genre for the breathtaking wilds of Australia, and offers a slower, character-led approach to the end of the world.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The modern master of the macabre brings the famous wooden would-be boy to life like never before in this exquisitely animated take on Pinocchio. A stop-motion masterpiece that hews closer to the original 1880s tale by Carlo Collodi than the sanitized Disney version, Guillermo del Toro adds his own signature touch and compelling twists to the classic story that make it darkly enchanting—expect a Blue Fairy closer to a biblically accurate many-eyed angel and a Terrible Dogfish more like a kaiju. It’s the decision to transplant the tale to World War II that’s the most affecting though—cast against the rise of fascism, with Gepetto mourning the loss of his son, this is a film packed with complex themes of mortality and morality that will haunt audiences long after the credits roll. If that doesn’t sell you, perhaps the fact that it won Best Animated Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards will?
The Land of Steady Habits
Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn) thought he wanted a change from his stifling life in a wealthy suburb of Connecticut. Now rashly divorced from Helene (Edie Falco), the woman he still loves, regretting his decision to retire early, and struggling with his adult son Preston’s (Thomas Mann) battles with drug addiction, Anders is spiraling. The Land of Steady Habits could be another typically maudlin look at a rich man’s midlife crisis, but writer and director Nicole Holofcener—adapting Ted Thompson’s novel of the same name—refuses to let its lead off the hook for his own culpability in his downfall, while also infusing Anders’ journey with both dark humor and a strange warmth.
In Bigbug, Jean-Pierre Jeunet—the director of Amélie, Delicatessen, and City of Lost Children—presents a near future where AI and robots are omnipresent, making life smoother and simpler for their organic masters. Unfortunately, humans remain just as messy and complicated as ever. A locked-room drama that would be as comfortable on stage as it is in Jeunet’s heightened unreality, Bigbug follows a group of splintered family members and interfering neighbors, their fractious relationships coming to a boil while trapped in a household security lockdown initiated by domestic helper robots. Meanwhile, the military-industrial Yonyx androids are taking over the outside world—an AI apocalypse drowned out by human neuroses. Any movie from Jeunet is worth a look, and with its satirical flair, exquisite set design, and sharp performances from French cinema royalty, the latest addition to his filmography is no exception.
Call Me Chihiro
An idyllic slice-of-life movie with a twist, Call Me Chihiro follows a former sex worker—the eponymous Chihiro, played by Kasumi Arimura—after she moves to a seaside town to work in a bento restaurant. This isn’t a tale of a woman on the run, trying to move on from her past. Chihiro is refreshingly forthright and unapologetic, and her warmth and openness soon begin to change the lives of her neighbors. Directed by Rikiya Imaizumi, this is an intimate, heartfelt character drama that alternates between moments of aching loneliness and sheer joy, packed with emotional beats that remind viewers of the importance of even the smallest connections.
The Sea Beast
It’s easy to imagine that the elevator pitch for The Sea Beast was “Moby Dick meets How to Train Your Dragon”—and who wouldn’t be compelled by that? Set in a fantasy world where oceanic leviathans terrorize humanity, those who hunt down the giant monsters are lauded as heroes. Jacob Holland (voiced by Karl Urban) is one such hero, adopted son of the legendary Captain Crowe and well on the way to building his own legacy as a monster hunter—a journey disrupted by stowaway Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), who has her own ambitions to take on the sea beasts. However, after an attempt to destroy the colossal Red Bluster goes disastrously wrong, Jacob and Maisie are stranded on an island filled with the creatures, and they find that the monsters may not be quite so monstrous after all. A rollicking sea-bound adventure directed by Chris Williams—of Big Hero 6 and Moana fame—it has secured its standing as one of Netflix’s finest movies with a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the upcoming Oscars.
Wendell & Wild
Kat went off the rails following the deaths of her parents five years ago. Now she’s got one last chance to steer her life back on track at a new school and finally conquer her personal demons. Unfortunately, she’s marked as a Hell Maiden on her first day, attracting the attention of actual demon brothers Wendell and Wild (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, respectively). Tempted by the scheming siblings’ promise to resurrect her parents if she summons them to the living world—where they plan to out-do their infernal father at his own game—Kat (Lyric Ross) is drawn into a macabre plot that threatens the living and dead alike. Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) and produced by Jordan Peele (Nope, Get Out), this is another fantastic entry in Selick’s canon of mesmerizingly dark stop-motion masterpieces.
This gleefully entertaining giant-monster movie eschews tearing up the likes of New York or Tokyo in favor of director Roar Uthaug’s (Tomb Raider 2018) native Norway, with a titanic troll stomping its way toward Oslo after being roused by a drilling operation. The plot and characters will be familiar to any fan of kaiju cinema—Ine Marie Wilmann heads up the cast as Nora Tidemann, the academic with a curiously specific skill set called in to advise on the crisis, while Kim Falck fits neatly into the role of Andreas Isaksan, the government adviser paired with her, and Gard B. Eidsvold serves as Tobias Tidemann, the former professor chased out of academia for his crazy theories about trolls. But the striking Nordic visuals and the titular menace’s ability to blend in with the landscape allows for some impressively original twists along the way. Although Troll could have easily descended into parody, Uthaug steers clear of smug self-awareness and instead delivers one of the freshest takes on the genre in years.
The latest from director Noah Baumbach sees him reteaming with his Marriage Story lead Adam Driver for another quirky look at disintegrating families and interpersonal angst—albeit this time with an apocalyptic twist. Driver stars as Jack Gladney, a college professor faking his way through a subject he’s unable to teach and struggling to work out family life with his fourth wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), and their four kids from previous relationships. Neurotic familial squabbles prove the least of their worries, though, when an “airborne toxic event” hits their town, sending everyone scrambling for cover with exponentially disastrous results. While the contemporary Covid-19 parallels are none too subtle, keeping the 1980s setting of Don DeLillo’s original novel proves an inspired choice on Baumbach’s part, one that accentuates the film’s darkly absurd comedy. By contrasting big hair and materialist excess against a rush for survival, White Noise serves up some authentic moments of humanity amid its chaos.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Daniel Craig reprises his role as detective Benoit Blanc in this brilliant follow-up to 2019’s phenomenal whodunnit, Knives Out. Writer-director Rian Johnson crafts a fiendishly sharp new case for “the Last of the Gentlemen Sleuths,” taking Blanc to a Greek island getaway for a reclusive tech billionaire and his collection of friends and hangers-on, where a planned murder mystery weekend takes a deadly literal turn. While totally accessible for newcomers, fans of the first film will also be rewarded with some deeper character development for Blanc, a role that’s shaping up to be as iconic for Craig as 007. As cleverly written and meticulously constructed as its predecessor, and featuring the kind of all-star cast—Edward Norton! Janelle Monáe! Kathryn Hahn! Leslie Odom Jr.! Jessica Henwick! Madelyn Cline! Kate Hudson! Dave Bautista!—that cinema dreams are made of, Glass Onion might be the best thing Netflix has dropped all year.
Florence Pugh dazzles in this not-quite-horror film from Oscar-winning director Sebastián Lelio. Set in 1862, English nurse Lib Wright (Pugh) is sent to Ireland to observe Anna O’Donnell, a girl who claims to have not eaten in four months, subsisting instead on “manna from heaven.” Still grieving the loss of her own child, Lib is torn between investigating the medical impossibility and growing concern for Anna herself. Facing obstacles in the form of Anna’s deeply religious family and a local community that distrusts her, Lib’s watch descends into a tense, terrifying experience. Based on the book of the same name by Emma Donoghue, The Wonder is a beautiful yet bleakly shot period piece that explores the all-too-mortal horrors that unquestioning religious fervor and family secrets can wreak.
Kosuke and Natsume are childhood friends whose relationship is strained as they approach their teenage years. When the apartment complex where they first met is scheduled for demolition, they sneak in one last time, looking for some emotional closure. Instead, they and the friends who joined them find themselves trapped by torrential rain. After the mysterious storm passes, the world is changed, with the entire building floating on an ethereal sea, and a new child in their midst.
Adolescent feelings and magical realism collide in this sumptuously animated movie from the makers of A Whisker Away (also available on Netflix and well worth your time). Director Hiroyasa Ishida (Penguin Highway) may not be up there with the likes of Hayao Miyazaki in terms of name recognition in the West, but Drifting Home should put him on your radar.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Hopped up on nationalism and dreams of battlefield glory, Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) is an eager young recruit for the German army during the last year of the First World War. His romantic view of the conflict is shattered on his first night in the cold trenches, surrounded by death and disaster, and dealt a tragic blow with the easy, meaningless loss of a dear friend. It’s all downhill from there in this magnificently crafted adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s groundbreaking novel, one of the most important pieces of anti-war literature of the 20th century. Paul’s journey is one of a loss of innocence, of naivete crushed by the relentless machine of war and state, and how soldiers on the ground are chewed up in the name of politicians and generals. Director Edward Berger’s take on the material is the first to be filmed in German, adding a layer of authenticity and making for a blistering, heart-rending cinematic effort that drives home the horror and inhumanity of war. Often bleak, but an undeniably brilliant piece of filmmaking.
Enola Holmes 2
2020’s original Enola Holmes proved to be a surprisingly enjoyable twist on the world’s most famous detective, focusing instead on his overlooked sister, Enola. No surprise, then, that this follow-up is just as exciting a romp through Victorian London. Despite proving her skills in the first film, Enola struggles to establish her own detective credentials until a missing-person report leads her to a case that’s stumped even Sherlock, and it sees her crossing paths with his archnemesis, Moriarty. Snappy action, clever twists, and bristling sibling rivalry from Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown and The Witcher‘s Henry Cavill as the Holmes siblings make for fun, family-friendly viewing. It even crams in a touch of vague historical accuracy by making the 1888 matchgirls’ strike a key part of Enola’s latest adventure.
Goreng (Iván Massagué) awakes in a cell in a vertical prison, where food is provided only by a platform that descends level by level, pausing only long enough for inmates to eat before traveling ever lower. While there’s food enough for all, prisoners on higher levels gorge themselves, leaving those below to starve. It’s the perfect recipe for violence, betrayal, and rebellion in director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s tense Spanish thriller. Equal parts horror, dystopian sci-fi, and social commentary, The Platform works as a none-too-subtle commentary on consumption culture, but also a stark examination of the depths to which desperate people can sink. It’s absolutely not for everyone—scenes involving cannibalism and suicide make it a particularly troubling watch in places—but thanks to its claustrophobic, brutalist setting and stellar performances from its cast, The Platform is one of the most visually striking and narratively provocative films on Netflix.
When Hannah’s (Jurnee Smollett) daughter Vee is kidnapped, she turns to the only person who can help—her neighbor Lou (Allison Janney), whose normally standoffish nature hides a dark and violent past. Janney is phenomenal as the grizzled, broken, dangerous Lou, delivering action scenes that stand alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest. While it would be easy to reduce Lou to a gender-flipped Taken, with Lou painted as a similarly unstoppable force in hunting down the lost child, there’s much more going on in director Anna Foerster’s gritty thriller. This is ultimately a film centered on failed families and generational abuse, and how sometimes blood isn’t enough to bind people together. A dark, gripping action epic.
At a glance, Do Revenge seems cut from the same cloth as Heathers and Mean Girls, simply bringing the high school retribution flick into the 2020s. However, writer-director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (cowriter of Thor: Love and Thunder) adds a heavy layer of Strangers on a Train to her deliciously petty tale of grievance and teenage angst. When queen bee Drea (Riverdale’s Camila Mendes) has a sex tape leaked by her boyfriend, she teams up with school outcast Eleanor (Stranger Things’ Maya Hawke), victim of a rumor that she forced herself on another girl, to swap vendettas and socially destroy the other’s bully. Of course, matters descend into chaos. But with a cast of brilliantly detestable characters making satisfyingly awful choices, a smart script that knows exactly how to play with (and poke fun at) the genre’s tropes, and an incredible soundtrack, you’ll be too hooked to look away.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Written, directed, and produced by Richard Linklater and using a style of rotoscope animation similar to that used in his films A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, Apollo 10 1/2 is a mix of lazy summers, Saturday morning cartoons, and idealized memoir. Loosely based on Linklater’s own childhood growing up in Houston in the midst of the space race, the coming-of-age story follows a young boy named Stanley as he’s recruited to pilot the lunar lander—which NASA accidentally built too small for full-grown astronauts. Blending period social tensions (“Yeah, that’s a hippy”) with childhood imagination and excitement for the future, this is a distinctive piece of filmmaking dripping with an almost innocent sense of nostalgia.
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus
Nickelodeon never quite knew how to handle Invader Zim. Back in 2001, Jhonen Vasquez’s sci-fi comedy about an inept alien attempting to take over the Earth was a massive underground hit, but it skewed a bit too dark for the kids’ network. Fast-forward two decades, and Zim—along with deranged robot companion GIR—is back to continue his invasion, with Vasquez let loose to create an animated movie without restraint. Channeling the classic series’ ludicrous sense of humor but with an even darker edge, this update sees Zim become a serious threat for once, and the Earth’s only hope is his arch enemy Dib—a paranoid schoolboy who’s spent the years since the show obsessively waiting for Zim’s resurgence. Packed with laugh-out-loud moments, big sci-fi ideas worthy of blockbuster franchises, and even some oddly touching—if appropriately nihilistic—moments exploring Dib’s family, Enter the Florpus is a very welcome return for a cult classic. Hopefully we won’t be waiting another two decades for Zim’s next invasion.
One of India’s biggest films of all time, RRR (or Rise, Roar, Revolt) redefines the notion of cinematic spectacle. Set in 1920, the historical epic follows real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitrama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.), but fictionalizes their lives and actions. Although drawn from very different walks of life, both men prove to be opposing the colonialist forces of the British Raj in their own way, their similarities drawing them together as they ultimately face down sadistic governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his cruel wife Catherine (Alison Doody). No mere period piece, RRR is a bold, exciting, and often explosive piece of filmmaking that elevates its heroes to near-mythological status, with director S. S. Rajamouli deploying ever-escalating, brilliantly-shot action scenes—and an exquisitely choreographed dance number—that grab viewers’ attention and refuse to let go. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Indian cinema or just looking for an action flick beyond the Hollywood norm, RRR is not to be missed.
A stop-motion animated anthology film, The House is a dark, strange, borderline-experimental piece where the eponymous domicile is the main character. The first chapter follows a young girl called Mabel, whose impoverished parents are offered free residence in the impressive home but never seem to notice the shifting layout or their own increasing resemblance to the furniture. Things only get weirder as the house next appears in a world populated by anthropomorphic rats, where a property developer is trying to renovate it for sale but is plagued by very peculiar buyers, before shifting to a seemingly flooded world where its new inhabitants struggle to leave even as the waters around them continue to rise. A deliciously eerie triptych of tales, all centered on themes of loss and obsession, The House will delight fans of Coraline or The Corpse Bride.
I Lost My Body
An award winner at Cannes in 2019, this tale of burgeoning young love, obsession, and autonomous body parts is every bit as weird as you might expect for a French adult animated film. Director Jérémy Clapin charts the life of Naoufel, a Moroccan immigrant in modern-day France, falling for the distant Gabrielle, and Naoufel’s severed hand, making its way across the city to try and reconnect. With intersecting timelines and complex discussions about fate, I Lost My Body is often mind-bending yet always captivating, with brilliantly detailed animation and a phenomenal use of color throughout. Worth watching in both the original French and the solid English dub featuring Dev Patel and Alia Shawkat, just to try to make the most sense of it.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) has a strained relationship with her technophobic father Rick (Danny McBride)—not helped by his accidentally destroying her laptop right as she’s about to begin film school in California. In an effort to salvage their relationship, Rick decides to take the entire Mitchell family on a cross-country road trip to see Katie off. Unfortunately, said road trip coincides with a robot uprising that the Mitchells escape only by chance, leaving the fate of the world in their hands. Beautifully animated and brilliantly written, The Mitchells vs. the Machines takes a slightly more mature approach to family dynamics than many of its genre-mates, with the college-age Katie searching for her own identity and having genuine grievances with her father, but it effortlessly balances the more serious elements with exquisite action and genuinely funny comedy. Robbed of a full cinematic release by Covid-19, it now shines as one of Netflix’s best films.
Don’t Look Up
Frustrated by the world’s collective inaction on existential threats like climate change? Maybe don’t watch Don’t Look Up, director Adam McKay’s satirical black comedy. When two low-level astronomers discover a planet-killing comet on a collision course with Earth, they try to warn the authorities—only to be met with a collective “meh.” Matters only get worse when they try to leak the news themselves and have to navigate vapid TV news hosts, celebrities looking for a signature cause, and an indifferent public. A bleakly funny indictment of our times, bolstered by a star-studded cast fronted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up is, somewhat depressingly, one of the best examinations of humanity since Idiocracy.
The Power of the Dog
In 2022, Netflix made its biggest play yet to win a Best Picture Oscar with The Power of the Dog. It lost to Apple TV+’s CODA, making it seem as though the streaming giant had lost to a much newer, younger player. It had, of course, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Jane Campion’s film is a wildly evocative tale about a brash rancher (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) in 1920s Montana who horribly mistreats his brother’s new wife and son. A critique of masculinity, Dog is beautifully shot and masterfully tense. While it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s still a great one—and nabbed Campion an Oscar for Best Director.
Based on the life of alleged mob hitman Frank Sheeran, captured in Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman essentially functions as a Martin Scorsese greatest-hits album. Featuring digitally de-aged Robert De Niro (as Sheeran) and Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), the movie was trapped in development hell for years before Netflix arrived with the willingness to give Scorsese the creative license (and money) to make the movie his way. It’s perhaps too long, at three and a half hours, and that de-aging technology still needs a little improvement, but the 10 Oscar nominations speak for themselves.
An intricate study of a cinematic masterpiece? Or two hours and 11 minutes of Gary Oldman lying around and getting tanked in bed? Mank is both. After Roma, David Fincher gets his turn at a monochrome, prestige Netflick with this look at screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, otherwise known as the guy who wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Or, more accurately, as the film demonstrates, for Orson Welles. All that old Hollywood fancy and snappy dialog is here, but Fincher is also interested in movie moguls, fake news, the women behind the men, and creative credit. Bonus points for Amanda Seyfried’s wonderful turn as actress Marion Davies.
The Wandering Earth
A colossal hit in its native China, The Wandering Earth earned more than $700 million (£550 million) at the country’s box office, prompting Netflix to snap up the rights to stream the sci-fi sensation internationally. The film follows a group of astronauts, sometime far into the future, attempting to guide the Earth away from the sun, which is expanding into a red giant. The problem? Jupiter is also in the way. While the Earth is being steered by 10,000 fire-blowing engines that have been strapped to the surface, the humans still living on the planet must find a way to survive the ever changing environmental conditions.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman’s final film before his untimely death is one set almost entirely in a sweaty recording studio in 1920s Chicago. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom centers on the mother of the blues, played by Viola Davis, as she clashes with bandmates and white producers while trying to record an album. Davis delivers a stellar performance, perfectly reflecting the tensions of the time, but it’s Boseman who is completely electrifying onscreen, stealing every scene he’s in. The actor truly couldn’t have done any better for his final outing as trumpeter Levee.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Much as with his previous films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Charlie Kaufman created quite the head-spinner with this Netflix drama. In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Lucy (Jessie Buckley) travels with boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents for the first time at their secluded farmhouse. But all the while Lucy narrates her desire to end things with Jake, and questions why she’s going on this trip in the first place. Cue an incredibly uncomfortable dinner with parents Toni Collette and David Thewlis (both excellent) and a confusing journey that flits through time. It should be noted that you simply won’t understand all (or frankly, any) of the elements of this mind-bending film. However, once you get all the answers, it’s hard not to admire and appreciate the complexities of loss and loneliness Kaufman has imbued in this drama.
The Old Guard
Netflix’s The Old Guard broke records on release and remains one of the streaming service’s most watched original films ever, reaching a whopping 72 million households in its first four weeks. But just how good of a watch is it? Charlize Theron leads a group of immortal mercenaries who use their self-healing powers to help those in need. When a new immortal joins their crew, they find themselves being chased down by scientists who want to experiment on them. The Old Guard’s action scenes are its strongest, with Theron and new recruit KiKi Layne having some serious fun dishing out and taking their fair share of hits. It may not be especially original in its plot, but The Old Guard delivers exactly what it promises.
Da 5 Bloods
After finding Oscar success with BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee returned with an even more powerful, violent, anguished take on another aspect of America’s history of racial injustice. This time it’s in Vietnam, where four Black military veterans have returned to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and a gold fortune they left behind. The film is a multilayered analysis of the racism suffered by the Black soldiers who were defending a country that simply did not value their lives, and the brutality the Vietnamese people were subjected to in the long, painful, and—as it’s known in the film—American War. As you would expect, a film that focuses so closely on these difficult themes is no easy watch, and there are moments of intense brutality. But at the heart of Da 5 Bloods is an incredibly human story of friendship, humanity, and the inherited trauma our main characters experience.
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 in 2019, and Netflix showed its impeccable taste in international films by picking it up. The first-time feature director takes her time as she follows 17-year-old Ada, who is in love with Soulemaine—one of the workers at sea—but is obliged to marry another man, and Issa, a police officer who gets mixed up in the lives of Ada and other 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.
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 showbiz movie with a heart of gold, there’s shades of The Disaster Artist and music legend biopics all over this film. Yet 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.