The best Netflix movies are here to whisk you off to another country/planet/galaxy. As many of us are minimising contact with others due to you-know-what, we are turning to streaming services for escapism, and Netflix delivers exactly that in droves. But what if you were one of the many millions of people to already watch The Midnight Sky over the Christmas break? Or perhaps you have think you have already seen all of Netflix's major hits?
Well, you've come to the right place if you're looking for something fresh to watch, as our list of the best Netflix movies is a diverse array of some of the streamer's best-known originals and other hidden gems. There are new Netflix movies, such as Pieces of a Woman, and there are old goldies, like Beasts of No Nation. There are comedies and there are serious dramas. There's something for everyone, is what we're saying.
Pieces of a Woman
You may recognise Vanessa Kirby from her brilliant turn as Princess Margaret on The Crown. In Pieces of a Woman, she's equally brilliant, giving a stunning performance as a woman struggling with the trauma and grief of losing her newborn baby.
The film co-stars Shia LaBeouf, and is directed by Kornél Mundruczó. Not one to be watched lightly, especially with an almost 30-minute long, one-take birth scene. Kirby, throughout, gives a stunning performance, with some critics calling for an Oscar nomination for the actor. And quite rightly.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Containing Chadwick Boseman’s final performance, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as the eponymous Ma Rainey, a singer known as the “Mother of the Blues.” Set across the course of one afternoon in 1927, tensions rise as Ma Rainey challenges her manager and producer – while Boseman’s Levee, a trumpeter, has ambitious plans of his own. The film is adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name, and Denzel Washington produces.
The film is swept along by its two potent central performances, Davis generating hefty diva-power with her proud, obstinate, blues-preaching Ma, determined not to be reduced to a ripped-off voice. Boseman’s wiry, angry Levee brings the film’s real charge, however, giving every rippling horn improv, fierce God-taunting rant, and soft-shoe shuffle the urgency of a man racing to make his mark with his art. The desperate, eloquent force of his performance gives this muscular film added punch and poignancy.
David Fincher’s long-awaited biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, Mank, has been a long time coming. Fincher’s father Jack wrote the script for the movie back in the '90s, but the project didn’t come to fruition until last year. It follows Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he writes Citizen Kane, as well as his relationships with newspaper tycoon WIlliam Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).
Oldman and Seyfried are both excellent, careers highs that should be showered in awards glory. Plus, this is Fincher’s first movie since 2014’s Gone Girl – the director brings everything to Mank, edited to perfection and becoming one of Hollywood's finest love-letters to itself.
“Only you can decide what’s best for you, Jesse.” Those words, said during the opening moments of El Camino, epitomise the character’s journey through Breaking Bad – the show-stopping series that charted the rise and fall of Walter White. El Camino continues Jesse's journey beyond the finale, offering a sendoff for the beloved former meth cook.
El Camino could have fallen apart quite easily, yet Aaron Paul’s intense portrayal of a man suffering PTSD holds everything together. He perfectly slips back into Jesse’s shoes, making the time spent between the series ending and El Camino’s release fade away. Thanks to Paul’s gravitas, the movie feels like a satisfying closure for the character. El Camino, then, offers a final farewell to some of the greatest characters ever to appear on television screens. And Jesse, poor Jesse, finally gets the closing chapter he deserves.
His House arrives is an excellent horror that's best watched on Halloween, though can be enjoyed any time of the year. The story revolves around two immigrants who flee their war-torn country for a better life in England. However, they are given a new home that's invaded by a certain... presence.
This one's a timely tale that's anchored by two superb central performances by Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu. We'll leave the rest for you to discover, but this is one haunted house horror you won't want to miss.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
In September 1969, seven members of the radical left were lumped together and charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot; the charges related to anti-Vietnam War and countercultural protests held in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. An eighth defendant, Bobby Seale (played here by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), was also bundled into this “all-star team” of revolutionaries by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell.
Aaron Sorkin could have directed this as a straight-forward court-room drama. However, thanks to a heavy-weight cast (Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) this is as gripping as they come. Trial of the Chicago 7 makes for an emotionally tough watch – though an exhilarating one too, given the torque of Sorkin’s talk. What really resonates are the shocking parallels to the current political landscape, the death of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests that were met this summer with tear gas.
Meet the little sister of Sherlock and Mycroft; charming, witty, and in a whole lot of trouble. Join the rambunctious Enola Holmes as she journeys across London in an attempt to solve, not one, but two mysteries. Stranger Things actor Millie Bobby Brown is delightful as the eponymous heroine, and the fourth-wall-breaking movie is the perfect light-hearted escape for anyone stuck at home.
The movie also unites Brown with another Netflix star, The Witcher's Henry Cavill, who offers a new take on Sherlock that rivals Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch's versions, even though his screen time is minimal. It's all surprisingly charming – and well worth a watch on Netflix.
The Devil All the Time
It’s not hard to imagine the scorchingly hot cast of Netflix’s The Devil All The Time attracting, then traumatising, an unsuspecting young audience. Part-time superheroes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, and Sebastian Stan lead this stacked ensemble – yet director Antonio Campos’ (Afterschool, Simon Killer) adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s novel couldn’t be further removed from breezy, mainstream comic-book fare.
A sprawling Southern Gothic drama set in post-war Ohio, around the epicentre of a town called Knockemstiff, TDATT’s time-hopping story begins with Willard Russell (Skarsgård) returning from World War 2, and starting a family with Charlotte (Haley Bennett). This movie's a harrowing experience – but a worthwhile one, if you can stomach it. Plus, once you've watched this one, be sure to read our ending explained piece with the director.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Based on Iain Reid's acclaimed novel of the same name, Charlie Kaufman's latest movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who – despite having second thoughts about her current relationship – travels with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) on their secluded farm. However, this is no normal family visit: proceedings soon to sinister as the woman becomes self-reflective and they turn nasty.
From the creative mind of the man behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a psychological thriller that will fry your nerves and leave you questioning what is real and what isn’t. Top tip: don’t believe everything you see...
A spooky love story set in Senegal. A 17-year-old named Ada has fallen in love with a young construction worker, Souleiman, who one day disappears at sea and ides. Those who were missing on the boat return to their old neighbourhood to haunt those left behind, with some hoping to wreak revenge for being underpaid. Souleiman, though, has other plans.
There's something magical about Atlantics. A ghost story that's not scary, but earnestly romantic and a political comment on poor working and living conditions in Senegel. The cinematography is beautiful, and Mati Diop's direction is superb. Critics have found it hard to categorise, and you can see why.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller star in Noah Baumbach's remarkable intergenerational comedy-drama about three siblings (Sandler, Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel) trying to navigate life in the shadow of their father (Dustin Hoffman). As they contend with him, each other, and their families, they find their lives taking unexpected turns.
If you’ve seen Baumbach’s previous movies, such as The Squid and the Whale or Greenberg, you’ll know what you’re getting here: a quirky comedy with emotional, dramatic elements, and some darn good performances too. He’s also co-written several of Wes Anderson’s movie scripts, including The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox. And yes, you better believe it, Adam Sandler can act, when he’s given a half-decent script (see Punch-Drunk Love for further proof).
Bong Joon-ho directs a sci-fi adventure movie with overt references to the modern food industry. Starring Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, and a cast of insanely talented actors, Okja caused a lot of discussion and debate at the time of its release, especially around the ethics of meat production. It also showed that companies like Netflix could make a success – and a thumping one – of left-field creative choices, as long as they do it with confidence. And Bong Joon-ho and co have that in plentiful supply.
Its bold and inventive storyline, great action, and eye-popping visuals make this a delightful movie. Also, who needs an excuse to watch anything with Tilda Swinton in it? Plus, its Bong Joon-ho... you know you're in good hands when this Oscar-winning director's on board.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
In one of Netflix’s largest coups, the streaming service produced a Coen brothers project. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – which was initially going to be a television show – consists of six short films, each detailing a story from the American West. Which makes this not one Coen movie, but technically Coen movies all wrapped up into one. And Coen movies are, as cinema aficionados know, quality (well, most of them).
While you might not take a night to go watch a series of shorts at the cinema, firing it up at home and making yourself cosy on the sofa is easy. Also, if you get interrupted, tired, or otherwise distracted, each movie won’t last longer than an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so you can divvy it up if needed.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee has been reminding us that Black Lives Matter since the mid-’80s, but his cries have unsurprisingly taken on a renewed urgency in recent years: Chi-Raq and BlacKkKlansman are among his most potent works. Da 5 Bloods matches those films for righteous anger, telling the story of four US veterans (played by Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Norm Lewis) returning to Vietnam to locate and repatriate the remains of their squad leader (played by Chadwick Boseman).
There’s also the little matter of finding a trunk of gold bullion they buried during the war – it was intended to pay locals for their help against the Viet Cong, but when it went down with a CIA plane, our heroes took it for themselves. This is a frequently fierce, fascinating picture. The world needs it right now.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a couple looking to get a divorce. He's a controlling theatre director; she's an actress looking to break out into the movies. Together, they are a mess whose only real bind remains their son.
Marriage Story really is a warts-and-all piece of filmmaking, with all the horrible details of divorce – having to look for lawyers, questioning who gets to keep the child, parents who seemingly go out of their way to worsen the situation – being portrayed on screen. That realness comes from director Noah Baumbach's impeccable screenplay, which he wrote after completing his own divorce. Not one to watch if your relationship isn't emotionally stable.
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, and takes a fair amount of time to watch. 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.
The Irishman is a classic Scorsese pic that’s all the better for its three-and-a-half-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.
All filmmakers put themselves in their work. It’s unavoidable. Alfonso Cuaron brings his past to the fore in his opus, Roma, using his 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 '70s, 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.
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?
The Social Network
Non-Netflix original available in US/UK
Before he became a billionaire tech giant, Mark Zuckerberg was a nerd. Albeit, a nerd with skills, who puts his wizardry to play to create a social network – The Facebook. Less interested in wild parties and hazing sequences, David Fincher’s dive into the world’s most powerful CEO is a sad expose that’s Fincher through and through.
It’s a dark, twisted, and highly-stylized story of Zuckerberg’s rise to fame. No stone is left unturned as the boy wonder goes from college nobody to billionaire, which is why the subsequent shoddy treatment of his pals on the way up makes for some essential viewing. While Zuckerberg’s tale isn’t a rags-to-riches tale it’s nevertheless fascinating to see how, despite having more money than sense, life isn’t any easier for him.
The Safdie brothers proved themselves a deft hand at adrenaline-pumping action with Good Time. Uncut Gems, however, sees the directing duo working on another level entirely. Adam Sandler plays Howie, a Jewish jeweller based in New York. Howie owes a lot of people a lot of money, and also has a gambling addiction. Cue a movie that will tear your nerves apart as you watch the strangely likeable central character do everything wrong.
There’s a reason why ‘Adam Sandler’ and ‘Oscar snub’ appeared together so frequently at the onset of 2020. Sandler gives a career-best performance as the smarmy snake oil salesman, while the high-octane, hectic pacing of much of the movie will leave you a wonderfully nervous wreck by the time the credits roll.
I Lost My Body
A French animation about a severed hand trying to reconnect with its owner is a darkly funny adventure-drama that’s packed with pathos. After escaping a Parisian hospital, the independent hand traverses the city – fending off oncoming traffic, erratic pigeons and feral rats along the way – in an impossible quest to rejoin the body it once belonged to, that of clumsy loner Naoufel.
I Lost My Body is a study of scaled-down, ground-level danger, with great comedy found in the detail. It’s also a meditation on fractured identity, heightened by the hand’s poignant hope for reconciliation. Director/co-writer Jeremy Clapin sensitively combines melancholy with an ultimately life-affirming message.
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, the iconic actor who created the phenomena that was Dolemite, a kung-fu fighting pimp who released comedy albums and movies. Dolemite Is My Name tells of Moore's struggles to get famous, and then, even when being famous among the black community, the trials that he had to overcome to get his movie made.
Murphy has rarely been better than in Dolemite Is My Name. This is his movie, with the comic actor carrying every scene – and it's a tragedy that he was not showered with gold at the Oscars. Wesley Snipes as director D'Urville Martin is also excellent.
Beasts of No Nation
One of Netflix’s very first productions was a bold proposition indeed; a war movie in a fictional African country, performed for long stretches in Twi (a dialect of the Akan language spoken in Ghana), about a child soldier groomed for violence by a simultaneously terrifying and magnetic commandant. Beasts of No Nation plays out in just as bleak a manner as the premise suggests, leaving the viewer morally conflicted and emotionally exhausted.
In a movie that’s equal parts thrilling and harrowing, Idris Elba delivers an absolute masterclass in his role as the commandant. You watch him groom a child for war and perform several war crimes, and yet, somehow, you still find yourself wanting to root for him. And no less of a revelation is the young Abraham Attah as Agu. It’s all directed, written, and shot by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who’s gone on to direct No Time to Die, and you can see why Bond’s producers liked him.
Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn play a married couple who are desperately trying to have a baby. As time is running out for them, they try to go for various methods of assisted reproduction, but when college dropout Sadie suddenly enters their life, everything changes. It’s a mix of comedy and drama, with that typical sort of existentialism that only seems to exist in New York-set movies.
In many ways, Private Life's a combination of your archetypal New York indie movie and your archetypal middle-aged conflict indie movie, but director Tamara Jenkins (2007’s The Savages) infuses it with her special brand of charm. Also, Giamatti is on vintage form with Hahn delivering a great performance, too. Like with so many of Netflix’s successes, the strength of this movie lies in the script’s understated authenticity rather than reliance on the sensational.
Set in the post-WWII Southern US, Mudbound is a dramatic thriller about the racial tensions and cultural segregation that still thrived at that time, almost a century after the abolition of slavery. It follows a cast of characters both white and black, as they navigate the often volatile society of the South, while at the same time dealing with the traumatic aftermath of World War II.
Mudbound is a war drama akin to a progressive rock song, adding layers and elements throughout, culminating in a true epic as all its strands converge dramatically. Aside from its cultural relevance today with increased racial tensions in recent years, it’s a damn good movie in its own right, and marks both Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund’s finest performances to date. This one’s a mammoth.
Other Side of the Wind
A previously-lost Orson Welles film, Other Side of the Wind features Jake Hannaford, an elderly Hollywood director, hosting a screening for his new movie, also titled Other Side of the Wind. The movie-within-a-movie spoofs both the Golden Age of Hollywood and the experimental cinema that punctured much of the late-1960s. The kicker, too, is that the audience is told straight away that this is Hannaford’s final day on Earth. Not a bad way to start a movie, that’s for sure.
Not only is this a piece of movie history (having previously remained incomplete after Welles’ death), Other Side of the Wind is unmissable for several reasons besides that. It’s a fantastic pastiche of modern and classic cinema, and is Orson Welles giving something new to the medium he dedicated his life towards. It also comes coupled with a documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, which is just as endlessly fascinating and re-watchable as the source material.
The Little Prince
Netflix doesn’t only focus on mature-themed movies, even though the freedom from R-ratings gives it plenty of scope for swearing, violence and sex. Here you’ll find a precious little animated movie based on a French novella from 1943, about a young lonely girl whose imagination is transported to another world through magical stories told by her eccentric neighbour. As she embarks on this journey, she discovers a world of wonder invisible to the naked eye, changing both her, him, and the girl’s mother in the process.
In an age where cynicism almost seems like a default emotion, be it in daily life, politics, or even cinema, The Little Prince is refreshingly heartfelt. It’s not a perfect movie in terms of pacing, but by golly is it pretty. It’s clean, wholesome fun for the family, and we can never have too much of that.
Directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House and Doctor Sleep), Gerald’s Game is a thriller with a twist: the protagonist is handcuffed to a bed for almost the entire movie. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play a couple who rent a secluded cabin to spice up their marriage. Shortly after handcuffing Gugino’s Jessie to the bed as part of a sex game, Gerald suddenly dies. Tied to the very sturdy bed, and with no one else close enough to hear her cries for help, Jessie faces a fight to survive.
Claustrophobic thrillers like this can often be hit-and-miss, but this one’s in the former category. It’s led almost entirely by Gugino’s intense performance, with the ever-classy Greenwood pretty much the only other cast member. The quality of acting elevates a well-executed genre movie.
High Flying Bird
In a lockout in a pro basketball league, a young and ambitious sports agent named Ray finds himself at the centre of a pitched battle for power between the players and the owners. Representing a supremely skilled young player, he decides to fight what he sees as a system of suppressing the voice of predominantly black players by the teams’ owners, who are mostly white, in an escalating high-stakes game of ratings, money, and power.
If you’re a sucker for a sports drama, you’ll love High Flying Bird. Like the movie correctly states, basketball is the sexiest sport on Earth, and there is some great action here peppered in among strong conversation scenes. It’s all directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has retired more times than Michael Jordan but just can’t stay away. Plus, it's all shot on an iPhone.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Non-Netflix original available in US/UK
King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his Knights of the Round Table ride off in search of the titular goblet. Well, it'd be more accurate to say that they pretend to ride on horses while their servants provide the coconut-based sound effects. The medieval set-up makes way for some of Monty Python's most memorable jokes; the Knights who say "ni", the French soldiers who sling insults at Arthur and his knights, the entire "'Tis but a scratch" sequence... There's loads.
Not every comedy appeals to every palette. Some people like broader physical humour, others might prefer satire. When it comes to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it's tough to imagine who wouldn't enjoy it. It's got everything. Slapstick shenanigans, fourth-wall-breaking, innuendo, deadpan delivery and surrealism all play a part. Watching it today, you can spot styles and ideas pinched by later comedians, but no-one does this mishmash of absurdity better than this bunch. After all, a great joke is only told the first time once.
A 17-year-old offender, Zachary, gets out of jail in his home city of Marseilles and immediately gets back into cahoots with his old gang to continue his life of crime, which includes pimping out sex workers. One day, though, he meets Shéhérazade, a young sex worker. He falls for her, and gradually becomes increasingly involved with her, which causes all sorts of conflict as his life escalates out of control.
Yes, this movie navigates a well-trodden narrative path, but Shéhérazade more than earns your two free evening hours. There’s French grit, simmering tension, and echoes of other French dramas involving outcast youths involved in crime (La Haine springs to mind). Plus a gorgeous neon-tinged visual palette mixes with the squalor the characters find themselves desperately trying to escape, with a strong soundtrack and confident performances from the young cast.
Ava DuVernay turned heads with Selma, the director's brilliant look at Martin Luther King's march on Selma. Two years later, DuVernay returned with the documentary 13th, named after the Thirteen Amendment of the United States Constitution, banning slavery throughout the country. However, the filmmaker argues that slavery has taken on another form: the incarceration of freedmen into prisons.
What follows is one of Netflix's most powerful documentaries, with 13th showing just how people of colour have continued to suffer under unfair and unjust laws and policing. Duvernay's unflinching look at the prison system – which highlights just how much some companies are making from keeping people locked up – was nominated for an Oscar, and rightly so.
The Old Guard
The Old Guard sees Charlize Theron playing an eternal warrior who's fed up with the world. Despite her best efforts, it just keeps getting worse. Plus, due to camera phones and modern technology, it's getting harder and harder to hide her true nature from those who want to use if for nefarious purposes. Add to the mix a new immortal fighter, played by KiKi Layne, who has no idea of her true powers, and Theron's Andy is in for one wild time.
Netflix's attempt at big-budget superhero action may not quite be Marvel standards, but it's certainly a thrilling watch. Theron makes for a bad-ass warrior who anyone would follow into battle, while the ending leaves The Old Guard open for a sequel. IF you're into comic-book action, then The Old Guard is for you.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
From the producer of Green Room, and starring the criminally-underrated Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood – who has mastered the art of the offbeat outcast character in recent years (just watch Dirk Gently, Maniac or Wilfred for proof) – you might assume I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore will a be left-field movie. And you’d be correct. It follows the increasingly violent misadventures of Ruth and her martial-arts obsessed neighbour Tony as they track down a burglar who stole Ruth’s grandmother’s silver spoon.
Equally humorous and cynical, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is one of the best Netflix Original movies because it echoes many people’s disaffection with the world. It is an often-hilarious take on someone who decides to stand up against an increasingly self-centred society… albeit with surprisingly bloody results.
The Two Popes
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, later Pope Francis, and Pope Benedict XVI have an interesting relationship. There were disagreements in the way the Church should be run, with Pope Benedict having more classical beliefs. And yet, Benedict also became the first Pope to renounce his position since 1415, with Pope Francis taking over.
What happened? That's the question this wholesome movie about faith attempts to answer, painting a pleasant portrait of two men at odds coming to an understanding. Even if you're not religious, The Two Popes makes for a light watch that's enhanced drastically by two incredible central performances: Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict. They were both rightly nominated for Oscars.
Non-Netflix original available in US/UK
Dan Gilroy’s debut feature, Nightcrawler, is a ghoulish satire that trawls the dark corners and neon-soaked streets of LA that plays like Network meets Taxi Driver. Gaunt and bug-eyed, Jake Gyllenhaal excels as Lou Bloom, a lost soul who stumbles across a bloody road accident and stands transfixed as a TV news crew feeds off the carnage. After getting hold of a digital camera and a police scanner, Lou goes into business, prowling the city at witching hour and selling his crime footage to cutthroat producer Nina. If it bleeds, it leads.
Gyllenhaal is ably supported by Riz Ahmed as his hired assistant, Bill Paxton as the head of a rival news crew, and Rene Russo, but this is Jake’s gig. Sustained by blood and crookedly perky in a manner that recalls The King Of Comedy’s sociopath Rupert Pupkin, Gyllenhaal’s Lou is a chilling, mesmerising creation, none more so than when he gazes at the studio backdrop of the LA skyline and murmurs, lullaby-like, “On TV it looks so real.”