It’s the season of goodwill to all men! It’s also the season of trouncing your way through your watchlist before the ball drops and it’s 2020! No-one wants to enter a fresh decade with remnants of half-watched films lingering on, do they? On that note, we here at GamesRadar+ gift you the most triumphant present of all: a top notch list of the best movies on Netflix! Yes, *very* thoughtful. No matter your tastes, like a good box of chocolates, there’s a little bit of something here for everyone to devour this festive season.
Looking to what’s new on Netflix you’ve got the likes of Scorsese’s new tour-de-force, The Irishman, which includes some of the best de-aging CGI this side of De Niro’s face. In the mood for some classics? We’ve got the lot. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Terminator, The Silence of the Lambs, Robocop, the list of must-see films goes on and on, and this festive time of year is perfect to revisit your warm and fuzzy faves, you know, like The Terminator. Alright, if you’re in the mood for one of the best movies on Netflix that doesn’t involve a cyborg, then opt for the comedies we give the thumbs up to, like Bridesmaids and The Edge of Seventeen. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s something here for every cinematic taste. Go forth!
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30. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
The movie: After pretty much stealing the show from Jeff Bridges in the 2011 True Grit remake, Hailee Steinfeld comes into her own in this spiky coming-of-age comedy. Sure, she’s absolutely slayed in her supporting roles, but it’s here that she’s in her element. Cast as edgy (geddit?) high school junior Nadine, it’s Steinfeld’s central performance that grounds this most excellent teen comedy, which dabbles with troubles and strife of being a kid who no-one takes seriously. Nadine’s journey begins when she tells her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) that she’s going to kill herself, and the movie unfolds as we learn why she feels that way.
Why it's worth a watch: This is head and shoulders above the rest of the so-called “teen comedies” out there, most of which are bereft of actual jokes. Steinfeld’s brilliant as Nadine, nailing the line deliveries perfectly, but it’s writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s zingy script that recalls the best of Heathers and the warmth of Juno.
29. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
The movie: A young Jeff Bridges and a grizzled Clint Eastwood (is there any other kind?) co-star as a couple of grifters in Michael Cimino’s directorial debut. Bridges, then a baby-faced 24-year-old, plays Lightfoot, a scrappy bandit with aspirations of becoming a career thief. Shortly after stealing a car, he crosses paths with Thunderbolt… whose day job is as a preacher. From there, the pair adventure across the states, bumbling through whatever the road throws at them with humour, even bumping into a couple of Thunderbolt’s old pals-turned-enemies, until the perfect opportunity presents itself: a bank robbery.
Why it’s worth a watch: It might feel unfocused at first (the plot doesn’t really kick in until you’re more than halfway through the movie) but that’s the draw. It mixes together the slow-paced happenings of life with action and comedy, sandwiching one of cinema’s earliest ever bromances between achingly cool car chases.
28. Robocop (1987)
The movie: Ten years prior to his supreme satire Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven delivered this stonker, dripping with graphic violence. Detroit runs rampant with violent crime, leading the police department into privatisation. Enter shifty corporation, Omni Consumer Products, which brutally murders a beat cop Alex Murphy in order to use his barely-living body to test their new cyborg cop tech. That’s all well and good, except Murphy retains much of his human memories, giving him an added edge and a score to settle with OCP.
Why it’s worth a watch: Blood! Guts! More blood! That’s why! Robocop harks back to an era, albeit in the recent past, where action blockbusters weren’t beholden to a PG-13 rating. Sure, we’ve now got the likes of Deadpool, but Verhoeven’s Robocop is in another class entirely. This is an ‘80s R-rated creation, after all. Catch it while you can.
27. Bridesmaids (2011)
A good comedy needs to meet certain criteria. It has to pack in a high ratio of laughs per scene. But that’s not all. It’s got to have heart, too. What sets Bridesmaids apart from its closest competitors (ahem, The Bachelorette) is how it manages to balance those two elements perfectly. The story follows Annie (Kristen Wiig), a struggling baker who accepts her best friend Lilian (Maya Rudolph)’s offer to be her maid of honour. While trying to arrange fun activities for all the bridesmaids, she keeps bristling up against Lilian’s other best pal, Helen (Rose Byrne).
Why it's worth a watch:
Forget whining, nagging wives trying to spoil their husbands’ fun, or the sumptuous, cleavage-tastic tempresses who serve only as eye candy. The women of Bridesmaids are not these women. Like their male counterparts have done in comedy for decades, they embark on all sorts of debacles. They’re thrown off planes, they get drunk, accidentally high, soil themselves in the streets and… uhh… steal a lot of labrador puppies.
26. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
The movie: A festival smash set during the early ‘90s, this dive into LGBTQ intervention camps is one of 2018’s best films. Led by a career-best performance from Chloe Grace Moretz, as the title character Cameron, it charts her journey as a gay teen whose experiences in the closet come to light when she’s caught fooling around with the prom queen. Shuttled off to a camp to be cleansed of her “sins” Cameron makes a lot of discoveries about who she truly is, what she wants, and what real friends look like.
Why it’s worth a watch: Moretz is an absolute revelation, diving into the role wholeheartedly, giving us one of her best performances to date. The emotional yo-yoing Cameron goes through is all right there, on her face, or simmering just beneath the surface. A much-needed entry into the gay cinema canon that will only get better with age.
25. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
The movie: Andre Ovredal, who gave us the delicious Blair Witch-esque Troll Hunter, drops the found footage method for his follow-up that takes place over the course of one night. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch play father and son coroners who take in a Jane Doe one stormy evening, after the town Sheriff finds an unmarked body at the scene of a horrific double murder. The two get to work - yes, it's rather gruesome in places - and slowly realise that there is something unusual about this particular corpse.
Why it’s worth a watch: Alright, the title may sound like another straight-to-video dud, but it's an absolute cracker. Ovredal's an expert at constructing tension. You feel like you're watching a slightly creepy episode of CSI, and then all of a sudden, it descends into absolutely terrifying scenarios that will have you covering your eyes. This movie is destined to make you both scared and beguiled by exactly what's unfolding onscreen.
24. The Terminator (1984)
The movie: Low budget, high concept – The Terminator remains a solid sci-fi horror that borrows from oodles of genres to tell a love story set in a world of machines. James Cameron’s 1984 flick cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the title character, a cyborg sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) the mother of future resistance leader, John. The resistance sends her a protector in the form of Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who will do anything to keep her safe. Over thirty years later, this movie still has the power to give you chills.
Why it’s worth a watch: It put James Cameron on the map, proving his skills at world-building, character development, and genre were on point for a relative newbie. While its sequel had a huge budget in comparison, it’s impressive to witness the ingenuity of the production, giving us a tightly-plotted thriller with some of the best ‘80s set pieces.
23. Ex Machina (2015)
The movie: Computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a week with his firm's CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Given the chance to pick his boss’s brain and perhaps score points excites Caleb, who doesn’t realise the entire set-up wasn’t a lottery - he was specifically chosen. His background leads Nathan to believe Caleb is the perfect candidate to take part in an experiment, wherein he administers the Turing test to evaluate a robot's consciousness. As it turns out, Ava (Alicia Vikander) the robot has other plans.
Why it’s worth a watch: Movies concerning robots imbued with artificial intelligence tend to make a case for their 'souls' being equally as important as ours, and all that they need is love and understanding. Alex Garland's directorial debut dallies with robotic sentience, therefore tussling with a similar topic, except Ava ain't no Bicentennial Man or Iron Giant. This is the darker side of AI, a world where Skynet could very easily exist…
22. To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
The movie: Netflix’s Original Content isn’t just about hard-hitting TV serials. Part of ‘flix’s attempt to reboot the rom-com, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a refreshing, lighthearted tale that revolves around the love life of one Lara Jean Covey (Lara Condor). After her older sister moves away to college, Lara Jean’s life changes when five secret love letters she had kept hidden somehow find their way into the hands of their recipients. One of the boys, Peter, enters into a fake relationship with Lara Jean - to wind up HIS ex, and to prove Lara Jean doesn’t fancy her sister’s ex. Confused? You won’t be, but you’ll love the optimism and John Hughes-esque atmosphere.
Why it’s worth a watch: For a high school rom-com set in 2018, it’s surprisingly light on teen tech. The kids use their cell phones (obviously), but the central conceit here revolves around a surprisingly sweet one - handwritten love letters. The rest of the movie’s charm spirals off from that notion, making this a rom-com likely to leave a lasting impression.
Read more: The 25 best romantic comedies that won't make you throw up
21. The Matrix (1999)
The movie: $463 million. It’s amazing to think that a movie with that huge a worldwide box office, was ever considered a “sleeper hit”. But The Matrix isn’t your typical film – it’s a dizzying blitz of philosophy, cyberpunk, action and state-of-the-art VFX that changed cinema. Keanu Reeves stars as Neo, a computer hacker who learns from Trinity and Morpheus, a trenchcoat-wearin’ duo oozing late ‘90s cool, that the world as we know it is a simulation. Every human is hooked to a machine and the reality we know is a ploy to keep us subservient by a tide of sentient computers. It’s like Skynet, sorta.
Why it’s worth a watch: Come for the bullet-time action sequences, stay for the ‘90s tech which is likely to make you cringe ever so slightly before you’re blown away again by the ballsiness of everything. Reeves gives one of his best-ever performances, as the slightly-stunned Neo, a delightful precursor to his current John Wick mantle.
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20. The End of the Tour (2015)
The movie: Rather than a straight adaptation - as if that's even possible with the book in question - of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, this movie delves into biopic territory. It's actually based on the non-fiction book by Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) who tags along for five days of Wallace (Jason Segel)'s book tour, hoping to get insight and perspective on the legendary author. Director James Ponsoldt, whose prior successes Smashed and The Spectacular Now dabbled with individuals on the fringe of their demographics, he’s the perfect person to decipher the story of Wallace’s process, in all of its beauty and struggle.
Why it's worth a watch: For fans of Wallace, it's the closest we'll ever get to an autobiography. For everyone else? It’s a glimpse into the non-starry side of the artistic journey, the down-to-earth grit of what it’s like to be a creator. Watching Segel tap into another side of his acting persona is mesmerising, and Eisenberg nails it as the reporter desperate to find himself in Wallace.
19. Jackie Brown (1997)
The movie: Quentin Tarantino's most understated and overlooked movie is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch. It's nevertheless got Tarantino's stamp all over it, with lengthy monologues about mundane activities, but it feels somehow less interested in fancy narrative gimmicks and more concerned with telling a good story. Pam Grier stars as Jackie Brown, an air hostess who gets roped into a dodgy money-laundering scheme by Samuel L. Jackson's shifty gangstah, Ordell Robbie.
Why it's worth a watch: Smart, clever, and that’s just Jackie herself. Whatever your thoughts on Tarantino, Grier steals the movie with a self-assured performance, throwing plenty of winks at her own career along the way. Oh and how can I forget that opening sequence - glorious! Watching Jackie saunter down a moving walkway, coolly exiting the airport without a care in the world. It's a sign of what's to come.
18. Roma (2018)
The movie: All filmmakers put themselves in their work. It’s unavoidable. Alfonso Cuaron brings his past to the fore in his latest opus, Roma, that uses the director’s upbringing on the Mexico City streets as inspiration. An entirely no-name cast makes this exhilarating movie shine, with a story that follows live-in housekeepers for a middle-class family. Set during the 1970s, Roma spins on ideas of class and culture, and places them inside some of the most breathtaking shots you’ll likely ever watch on Netflix.
Why it’s worth a watch: Cuaron’s simply one of the most visually ambitious directors working today. Scratch that - he’s ambitious, period. After the likes of 2013’s Gravity – a complex space-set thriller, hung together by cutting-edge CGI – Roma is a breath of fresh air. A simplistic dive that’s already being heralded as a masterpiece, and one of the best movies ever made, why wouldn’t you want to see that?
Read more: The 25 best black and white movies that don't need colour to shine
17. Calibre (2018)
Region: UK, US
The movie: Picture the scene. You’re having a great time with an old friend, and then all of a sudden, you’re struck by that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when the absolute worst thing imaginable happens. The moodscape of Calibre preys on that very sensation for its entire runtime, venturing down some decidedly murky ethical holes to tell the tale of two lifelong friends who journey to the Scottish highlands for a hunting weekend. While Vaughn and Marcus’ getaway is a boozy fun time at the start, the real thrills kick in when they hit the outdoors to bag themselves a deer.
Why it’s worth a watch: Well, we say watch, but you’ll likely experience most of the film from behind a cushion while you clutch the armrest, sweat pouring down your back. Writer-director Matt Palmer’s debut isn’t a horror per se, more an experience in sheer pulse-pounding what-the-fuckery. While most of its punchiest moments are snagged from elsewhere, that doesn’t matter: you’ll be holding your breath the whole time.
16. Black Panther (2018)
The movie: The MCU breaks new territory as we head to Wakanda, ancestral home of T’Challa (AKA Black Panther) as he’s torn between inheriting the role of leading his country in the wake of his father’s death and fighting off usurpers from all sides. Lurking in the shadows, too, is Erik Kilmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who places himself firmly among the pantheon of best Marvel villains by going toe-to-toe with T’Challa for control of the technologically-advanced African nation. All this leads to several climactic showdowns within Wakanda and beyond as T’Challa has to prove he has what it takes to become a king.
Why it’s worth watching: Simply put, this is Marvel at its very, very best. While the studio with the Midas touch can seemingly do no wrong, this projected undoubtedly represented a risk. It needn’t have. With Ryan Coogler behind the camera, this is a movie that pops with flair and colour as well as elevating Black Panther to the top tier of MCU heroes. No mean feat for the first (of presumably many) standalone movies. This being Marvel, there’s several cameos along the way to keep you entertained – and one heck of a final showdown.
Read more: Black Panther ending explained - everything you need to know after watching
15. The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Region: UK, US
The movie: A stomping riot of a film that barely gives you room to breathe is the only way to truly describe this actioner. The Night Comes For Us tells the tale of a triad enforcer with a change of heart. When his group raids a village, Ito (who you’ll recognise as Iko Uwais from The Raid) refuses to slay an innocent child, instead opting to wipe out his entire crew. Departing the massacre with the young girl in tow, he must choose a different path for himself… but albeit one that’s not *too* different. I mean, it’s still bloody as hell.
Why it’s worth a watch: A non-stop relentless barrage of violence, that’s at times dizzying, the sheer wealth of gore is astounding. Is this really just an action movie? No, this is splatter-tastic. The ingenuity behind the set-pieces borders on ridiculous: you absolutely will not seen another movie like this.
14. Indiana Jones Trilogy (1981-1989)
The movie(s): Action adventures don’t come as iconic as this. Steven Spielberg’s trilogy charts the escapades of archeologist Indiana Jones, who, aside from owning *the* coolest name ever, does double duty as a professor and treasure hunter. Thrown into scrapes during his globe-trotting antics is simply part of the job. Raiders of the Lost Ark is often heralded as the best of the bunch, hitting every point spot on, but if you’re in the mood for a darker edged hero’s journey, go with my favourite - Temple of Doom.
Why it’s worth a watch: This entire trilogy embodies the spirit of pure popcorn cinema. Never silly or dull, the love and attention paid to each aspect of the production shows. And, while Star Wars fans may argue, it’s these films that highlight Ford at his matinee idol peak, cementing his status as a smooth, action hero. This trio of movies certainly waver in tone throughout, but taken together, they’re damn near perfect.
13. The Endless (2017)
Region: UK, US
The movie: Ever feel as if there is nothing new under the cinematic sun? I'm almost certain that's what led filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to craft each of their films, including their latest, The Endless. A seemingly "normal" tale of two brothers who, as teenagers, escaped the clutches of a cult, is flipped into a realm David Lynch would feel right at home in. This is not your normal genre outing, folks, as the siblings decide to return to their former homestead and discover that the cult is the least of their worries.
Why it's worth a watch: First of all, watch this right now so you can say you saw one of Benson and Moorhead's earliest movies before the rest of the world caught on. Their horror sci-fi genre mash-up is a glorious headfuck of a movie, a deep dive into the human condition and how we respond to the monstrous - whether it’s a towering beast, or something inside of us.
12. Hell or High Water (2016)
The movie: Say the word Western and your brain will likely conjure images of John Wayne genre pics of yesteryear. Hell or High Water brings back that same central conceit - cops and robbers hashing it out on the frontier - and locates the action elsewhere. How so? Well, the frontier of this Taylor Sheridan-penned flick reflects modern times, with Chris Pine and Ben Foster cast as two brothers out to commit as many bank robberies as possible. Their justification? It’s the banks’ fault for giving their family a reverse mortgage.
Why it’s worth a watch: Old school Western stylings with a modern twist, anyone? A rugged throwback to a different era of movie-making, the visuals and plottings could be nabbed from any number of golden oldie Westerns. What makes this such a delight is the “cop on his last day” trope, brought to life by Jeff Bridges, whose almost-retired Texas Ranger is one of his most understated roles.
11. Annihilation (2018)
The movie: Annihilation featured on Total Film and GamesRadar's best movies of 2018 list. Very loosely based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel of the same name, it revolves around a parcel of land referred to as ‘Area X’. After something crash lands in Florida, the area develops and grows, gobbling up land at an alarming rate, cut off from the world by an enormous barrier called the Shimmer.
All previous exploration groups bar one survivor have failed to return from Area X and the government body in charge, Southern Reach, has no idea why. Still, why not try sending yet another expedition into its fatal clutches? Enter Lena, a scientist whose husband was the sole returnee from the previous mission, who joins four other women desperate to figure it out.
Why it’s worth a watch: A gloriously trippy jaunt into a world previously hinted at in Garland’s Ex Machina, Annihilation bursts at the seams with ideas. With less emphasis on a traditional plot, go into this film with the willingness to soak up the mood, feeling and gorgeous visuals. Part body horror, part survivalist thriller, this stands out for its stellar all-female lead cast, who bring a feminine edge to the traditionally male sci-fi genre. Combine that with the daring, WTF aspects of the story, and you’ll find the hairs standing up on the back of your neck several times throughout. Do not miss this.
Read more: Annihilation ending - 5 questions we need answered
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10. Blue Velvet (1986)
The movie: Off the back of Dune, David Lynch returned from the sci-fi realm to what he knew best: the dark, seedy underbelly of American life. White picket fences of suburbia are the backdrop for his 1986 indie, that waves away the tiresome idea of a quaint affair being the biggest mystery behind closed doors, and instead dives into the brutality of what lies beneath. Kyle MacLachlan plays Jeffrey, a squeaky-clean college guy who returns home and winds up discovering a severed ear in a nearby lot. Together with his butter-wouldn’t-melt girlfriend Sandy (Laura Dern) the pair aim to solve the mystery, that finds them crossing paths with singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosselini) and beastly thug Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).
Why it’s worth a watch: One of *those* movies continually stuck onto ‘best of’ lists, if you’ve yet to see it, now is the time to find out what all the fuss is about. Lynch’s deranged, twisted vision of the real America is lush, replete with iconic visuals (Jeffrey in the closet, my personal fave) and some epic one-liners. Hopper, Rossellini, Dern and MacLachlan make for a thoroughly unique central quartet.
9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The movie: Anthony Hopkins’ turn as the flesh-eating Hannibal Lecter is so embedded in our culture, that with a quick sizzle of the tongue and a mention of Chianti, people know what you’re referencing. The Silence of the Lambs is more than Lecter’s churlish behaviour, however, it’s a stunning masterpiece, trimmed of all fat, that tells a story of good vs. evil with distinct areas of grey to make the entire experience all the more thrilling. Jodie Foster’s recent FBI graduate Clarice Starling is a cut above the rest of her class, earning the respect of her superior Jack Crawford, who sends her to a psychiatric hospital to interview the notorious serial killer Hannibal Lecter with the hopes of gaining insight on another criminal who currently has a Senator’s daughter held hostage.
Why it’s worth a watch: Often copied but seldom bettered, perhaps Fincher’s Seven or Zodiac are the closest we’ve come, the movie is a gripping, watchable-as-hell thriller. From the script choices to the casting, from the direction to its skilled editing, which transforms a standard cat-and-mouse ending into one of cinema’s most inventive finales, the film remains some thirty-something years later, a chilling piece of work.
8. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The movie: Thirty years after the events of the first Blade Runner, the world has continued to explore the far reaches of technology in ever more devious ways. While not entirely gone, the grimy Los Angeles nightscape is switched for dusky deserts, neon-lit skylines, and ramshackle cosmopolitans. This time, we follow Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner for the LAPD tasked with retiring “rogue” replicants, as he finds himself facing a conspiracy that threatens to everything the world knows about bioengineered humans. During his stints, he lurks into the more treacherous parts of humanity… so naturally, Jared Leto’s there.
Why it’s worth a watch: There’s no beating perfection. But hey, with a big enough budget and cajones, why not give it a try and see where you end up? Director Denis Villeneuve reworks the world established by Ridley Scott's 1982 original, twists it to better reflect modern quandaries (Hello, bountiful misogyny!), and makes it beautiful. A visual stunner with a longing heart to match, who knew we’d get a Blade Runner sequel as daring as its predecessor? Not only one of the best movies on Netflix, it’s one of the best movies of the last decade.
7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
The movie: Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider at a lab, his Uncle Ben dies, he goes…zzzz. Sorry, nodded off there for a moment. We all know Spidey’s origin story. That’s why, like Homecoming, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opts to bypass that retelling and dive into something new. The socially-awkward New York teen Miles Morales is the lead, and it’s his story, one of diversity, acceptance, and compassion, that fuels one of the best Marvel movies made that’s not in the MCU. His story may borrow familiar elements, yet it spins a web - ahem - of its own.
Why it’s worth a watch: It’s hard to find fault with what’s become one of *the best* comic book movies ever made. Considering how well we know this character, its a miraculous that this makes the Spidey universe feel utterly original. It’s a blast, it feels fresh, the soundtrack is dynamite, and it’s visually stunning. Get it watched.
6. The Witch (2015)
The movie: Arriving to mass critical acclaim upon its Sundance debut, Robert Eggers’ creepy-as-hell period chiller The Witch absolutely deserves its place in the horror pantheon. The movie takes place in 1630s New England, when William and Katherine and their family are cast out of the Puritan church and break for a new life on a remote settlement edging a spooky forest. As if being ostracised from everything they know isn’t bad enough, the couple are devastated when their baby Samuel is snatched while their daughter Thomasin watches over him. Things get worse from there. Much, much worse.
Why it’s worth a watch: Granted, this is a slow burner that’s not heavy on the visuals of the big bad witch, but that’s not the point. This is a glorious meld of period piece, familial drama and supernatural foray, that’s its most scary when Thomasin and and her mother are at odds. Oh, and of course, Black Philip always make it worth a watch. Who? Hit play and find out.
5. Misery (1990)
The movie: One of those rare Stephen King adaptations that faithfully recreates all the best parts from the novel, while adding its own elements of fear, Misery still stands up 28 years later. James Caan stars as famed novelist Paul Sheldon, whose writing rituals include finishing each book at a secluded locale in Colorado. Except this time as he begins the drive back to New York, he encounters a storm and his car veers off into a ravine. Lucky for him, his number one fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, in the role that won her the Oscar) is there to save him and nurse him back to health.
Why it's worth a watch: Rob Reiner isn’t exactly known for being a ‘master of suspense, but boy, does he do a good job of earning that title here. Adapting King’s novel for the big screen, in Misery, Reiner perfectly meshes the over-zealous fanaticism of Bates’ character with the genuine terror of Caan’s imprisoned writer. It’s a near-perfect page-to-screen movie.
4. Goodfellas (1990)
The movie: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” So goes Goodfellas’ opening voiceover; an iconic one-liner that sets the stage for the movie to come. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film is based on the true story of mobster Henry Hill whose exploits are so outlandish you’ll be gobsmacked to learn they actually happened. With excellent turns from Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Lorraine Bracco, this is, simply put, terrific cinema.
Why it’s worth a watch: Forget The Godfather, with its lengthy shots and moody lighting, this is the real deal when it comes to screen gangsters. The fast pace, the action sequences, that gorgeous tracking shot, and Liotta’s superb voiceover mark Goodfellas as a classic, but it’s the inevitable downfall of the major players involved that makes it so much damn fun to watch.
3. Her (2013)
The movie: The tender tale of a lonely man who finds companionship with his operating system. Only someone like Spike Jonze could take that concept and craft a sweet, tender story. This 2013 Oscar-winner follows the life of professional letter writer Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix). Recently-separated from his wife (Rooney Mara) and struggling to move on, he befriends his new A.I. operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Eschewing other social engagements so he can spend more time with Sam things swiftly take a turn when his feelings develop.
Why it’s worth a watch: A forbidden love story between humans and technology? I hear you: this topic can get a little icky, but Her gracefully sidesteps any gross scenarios due to Samantha’s lack of physicality. At its core, the film explores the topic of impossible romance while revealing a lot about our relationships with devices.
2. The Irishman (2019)
The movie: Scorsese’s adaptation of I Heard You Paint Houses, Charles Brandt’s book chronicling the life of mob underling Frank Sheeran, took its time getting here. Packed with a show-stopping cast, Robert DeNiro leads the show as the former truck driver who falls in with a Pennsylvania crime family led by Joe Pesci’s Russell Bufalino. This is a classic Scorsese pic that’s all the better for its 3.5 hour runtime, which delves deep into a previously-unexplored territory: the loneliness of a lifelong crook. Alongside Al Pacino as Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, Pesci and De Niro receive two of their meatiest parts to date. The movie’s CGI de-aging techniques will wow you.
Why it’s worth a watch: This is quintessential Scorsese with a twist: more people get shot in the face than you can count, and yet, it’s less concerned with the bravura of its mobsters. Unlike Goodfellas and Casino, The Irishman ruminates on the consequences of a lifelong dance with casual crime, how Sheeran’s commitment to violence not only destroyed the lives of his enemies but his own as well.
1. Moonlight (2016)
The movie: A coming-of-age drama with a difference, Moonlight tells the tale of Chiron throughout three stages in his life. Each chapter of his story unveils the troubles he’s overcome, both internal and external, from his burgeoning sexuality, to the abuse he suffers as a child. Choosing to focus on the truth of his characters over a complex plot or distracting visuals, writer-director Barry Jenkins lets the movie float along as if we are spectators to Chiron’s life.
Why it’s worth a watch: The Academy doesn’t always get it right when it comes to Best Picture. With Moonlight they were spot on, giving the most prestigious accolade to the most deserving movie. A timely, sensitive piece that deals with the heavy topics of Chiron’s life with the lightest touch, most of which is highlighted by the superb central performances from the Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert. Mahershala Ali’s turn as the drug dealer-turned-father figure Juan is sublime.