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The 35 best films to watch on Netflix right now, from They Cloned Tyrone to Arrival

Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris and John Boyega in They Cloned Tyrone (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris and John Boyega in They Cloned Tyrone (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)

Netflix still remains one of the best go-to places for movies on demand.

Whatever you are looking for, you’re likely to find it on the streaming site: there are blockbusters such as Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, family favourites such as Fantastic Mr Fox and all eight of the Harry Potter films, mind-bending thrillers like Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, and feel-good love stories such as Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Given that the weather isn’t all that good – despite it being August – we’re busy enjoying evenings spent inside watching incredible films.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide of our favourite 35 feature films on Netflix that are available to watch now – listed in no particular order.

Arrival

Arrival is a beautiful film that looks at the limitations of language as a means of communication, and the theory that language dictates thought. It tells the story of a linguistics professor, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is called upon by a special US military team after 12 alien spacecraft land around the world. She is tasked with trying to communicate with the aliens in the spacecraft, which has landed on American turf.

As if that job wasn’t high-pressured enough, Banks is in a race against time as countries around the world fail to agree on the correct way to approach the aliens, and war looms. Arrival received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Film and Best Director for Denis Denis Villeneuve, and won one for Best Sound Editing.

The Great Beauty

Paolo Sorrentino’s best film by a long way, The Great Beauty is a meditation on life through the eyes of a successful writer. Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) wrote one successful book decades ago which catapulted him into the wealthy and superficial social circles of Rome’s elite. Years later, he’s still there. Against the backdrop of Italy’s capital, Jep dates, goes to parties, walks around the city, and reflects on faith and morality. The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars.

Primal Fear

When the head of Chicago’s Catholic diocese, Archbishop Rushman, is stabbed and mutilated, 19-year-old Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is arrested for the murder. Martin Vail (Richard Gere) decides to take his case pro bono (for free), while his ex-girlfriend, Janet Venable (Laura Linney) stands for the prosecution. It quickly becomes clear that Archbishop Rushman had some sinister habits. Meanwhile, Aaron has mental health issues which change Martin’s defence approach.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher’s English-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel stars Daniel Craig stars as Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is hired by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to find out what happened to his grand-niece, who disappeared decades ago. Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander, a troubled but highly-skilled researcher who becomes integral to the case. A warning, there are some very sexually explicit scenes that involve rape.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma’s visually gorgeous 18th-century love story tells the story of independent Héloïse, an aristocratic young woman who is supposed to have her portrait painted in order to attract a suitor. The only problem? She refuses to sit for one. And so her family turn to sneakier means, hiring painter Marianne to befriend Héloïse, and capture her likeness in secret. But the two quickly fall in love, rather complicating matters.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

One of the slickest, most chilling spy thriller films ever made, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel makes for a terrifying watch. The all-star cast includes Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds and John Hurt, and its story follows senior British intelligence agents during the Cold War in the Seventies. When it emerges that one of them is a mole, Smiley (Oldman) is called out of retirement to try and discover who it is.

They Cloned Tyrone

Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, John Boyega (The Woman King) and Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk) star as Slick, Fontaine and Yo-Yo, three acquaintances who get entangled in a mystery: Fontaine, a drug dealer, is shot and killed, but pops up again the next day as if nothing has happened. After that, things go from strange to completely surreal, as the trio get drawn into a conspiracy. Despite being quite bonkers, the reviewers loved Juel Taylor’s latest film: “They Cloned Tyrone is a two-hour long romp with a deeply satisfying ending,” said The Standard.

Paddington

There are few films as lovely as Paddington – the celluloid equivalent of a long hug with your mum. Ben Whishaw is the voice of the orphan bear, who is in London after an earthquake has destroyed his home in the deep jungles of Peru. He is taken in by the Brown family (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins play mum and dad) who quickly become fond of him. But evil taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman) plans to stuff him.

Clueless

More Nineties than Tamagotchis and Sunny-D, teen comedy Clueless is a smart take on wealth and privilege in the US, detailing the cliques and cliches of American High School life. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, it deserves its reputation as one of the most-loved cult favourites of the decade.

The Truman Show

Jim Carrey’s life is the focus of the world’s most popular reality TV programme, only he doesn’t know it. His entire life is broadcast around the world continually, and it’s heartbreaking to see Truman grow up to realise his concept of reality is a lie. Carrey is excellent in the title, giving one of his most sympathetic and moving performances, with vivid direction from Peter Weir.

Scarface

Al Pacino is at his bombastic, bloodthirsty and screen-dominating best as Scarface, the Cuban immigrant who rises to become the most powerful drug lord in Miami. There is apparently a new version on the way from Call Me By Your Name filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, but before it arrives, revisit the visceral Eighties classic.

Tigertail

A Taiwanese man makes a new start in America, leaving behind the woman he fell in love with. Years later, after marrying a woman he has far less in common with, he opens up to his daughter in New York about his experiences. Written by Master of None’s Alan Yang, it’s a lovelorn, profound and quietly affecting drama, with beautifully shot sequences of Taiwan’s sweeping fields and chaotic cityscapes.

Horse Girl

Alison Brie, perhaps best known for charming performances Mad Men and Glow, gets the chance to show off her full range in Horse Girl – one of the trippiest Netflix films since the excellent Anhilliation. The psychological drama is a meditation on mental health, with a plot that tips over into surreal sci-fi territory, leaving the viewer doubting the film’s entire reality. One of the more interesting originals.

All Day and a Night

The People v. O. J. Simpson and Black Panther writer and producer Joe Robert Cole stepped into the director’s chair for All Day and a Night, which follows a young rapper coming to terms with the murder he committed, and turbulent life that proceeded it. There are stylised, yet gritty depictions of life on the streets of Oakland, California, as well as a fantastic cast including Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Us), Regina Taylor (The Unit) and Jeffrey Wright (No Time to Die).

Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino presents an alternate take on history in WWII drama Inglourious Basterds, a real return to form after the indulgent Death Proof two years earlier. The director’s masterstroke was in scouting Christoph Waltz from German soaps to play the SS colonel Hans Landa – one of the most unsettling villains of recent times – a performance which saw him win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

No Country for Old Men

This sprawling adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel features one of the ultimate antihero performances from Javier Bardem in his first English-speaking role. Cutting a terrifying figure with a lethal cattle gun and a terrible haircut, his hitman sets out to find two million dollars from a botched drug deal, deciding people’s fates on the flip of a coin. It’s arguably the Coen Brothers’ finest work, with an incredible atmosphere and some of the most memorable set pieces in contemporary Westerns.

The Two Popes

Critics including the Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan tipped this two-hander drama for success at the Oscars a while back. It’s gone under the radar slightly since then, and might not have come out on top, but the performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio respectively are electric.

The Big Short

 (Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)

The Big Short did a better job than most of explaining the conditions that led to the financial crash of 2008. How? By enlisting the likes of Margot Robbie, who explained the impact of subprime mortgages all while drinking champagne in a bubble bath. It’s more than just an economics lesson, too, thanks to the bombastic direction of Adam McKay and riotous turns from Christian Bale and Steve Carrell.

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s tale of a demoralising and dehumanising divorce process is, despite itself, uplifting and surprisingly funny. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver manage to bring their frailties and flaws to the fore, crucially while remaining essentially likeable people, as their lives fall down around them. Laura Dern and Ray Liotta’s performances as the street-fighting lawyers Nora Fanshaw and Jay Marotta are enjoyable too – albeit, both have a touch of the pantomime villain.

Roma

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a stunning ode to Mexico, following a young housekeeper and the middle-class family that employ her in the early Seventies. It’s vast in scale, exploring both intimate relationships, family dynamics and expansive geopolitical themes. There’s a timeless beauty to the film, and it’s deeply moving and heartbreaking in parts.

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal delivered the most physical and unnerving performance of his career in Nightcrawler, which captures the seedy underbelly of video journalism. It’s one of the creepiest and most atmospheric films of the past decade, with Gyllenhaal playing a videographer who immerses himself further and further into the world of criminality in Los Angeles to capture shocking footage.

Annihilation

This brilliantly weird high-concept sci-fi is one of the best original Netflix movies yet, following cellular biology professor Natalie Portman as she ventures deeper into a mysterious zone called the Shimmer. Think Heart of Darkness with added aliens.

Okja

A genetically-enhanced super pig and a young girl form an unlikely and beautiful friendship in this gem, going head to head with a superfood conglomerate. This Netflix original from Parasite’s Bong Joon-Ho was dismissed as vegan propaganda by some when it came out in 2017, but it’s so much more.

I Am Mother

A teenage girl is raised by a robot with the intention of repopulating a devastated earth in this bold and ambitious sci-fi drama, packed with twists and turns. There’s one of the best performances from Hilary Swank in years, playing a mysterious stranger who throws the validity of the programme into doubt.

Uncut Gems

Normally, Adam Sandler and a ridiculous pair of fake teeth is a recipe for a bonafide dud. Not this time. The Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems emerged as one of the most compelling movies of 2019, with Sandler giving a magnetic performance as a compulsive and capricious jeweller who acquires a black opal to pay off rising gambling debts.

My Neighbour Totoro

The glorious Studio Ghibli back catalogue arrived on Netflix in 2020, helping more people than ever discover their awe-inspiring animations. This fantastical, touching tale following two young girls who befriend a spirit form in bucolic Japan is the perfect place to start.

Under the Shadow

A mother and a daughter are haunted by a shapeless evil force in Eighties Tehran in this strange and inspired supernatural horror. The threat of air raids during the Iraq-Iran war looms large over the film, which is claustrophobic, affecting and unforgettable.

Private Life

Private Life is one of the few Hollywood movies of recent times that tackles the subject of middle-aged couples trying to have children. It’s sensitive and quietly devastating, featuring the best Paul Giammatti performance in years and a great turn from Kathryn Hahn.

Life of Brian

One of the most quotable comedies ever made, this inspired film follows a man in Judea who is wrongly identified as the messiah. If this doesn’t scratch your Monty Python itch, the Holy Grail is also on there too.

Boyz N the Hood

One of the finest coming-of-age dramas of the Nineties, John Singleton’s drama captures the lives of three young men negotiating the tough streets of Crenshaw, Los Angeles, painting one of the most enduring pictures of inner-city America. The impressive cast includes Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Regina King, and Angela Bassett.

The Half of It

If you like your coming-of-age romcoms with just enough of a twist, then The Half Of It could be your perfect match. A shy girl who writes essays for money is paid by a jock to write letters for a girl he likes, only to fall for the girl herself and discover her true identity. Still following? Good. It’s a tender and articulate film from writer and director Alice Wu, which will leave you feeling nicely fuzzy without ever tipping into cliche. It was named Best U.S. Narrative Feature by the 2020 Tribeca Festival.

Beasts of No Nation

 (Netflix)
(Netflix)

Idris Elba is at his best in this stark war drama, delivering a scary and charismatic performance as the Commandant – the leader of a rebel faction in West Africa populated by child soldiers. Rarely has the sheer depravity and nihilism of war been captured in such a striking way.

Mudbound

One of the first Netflix originals that really struck a chord with critics, Mudbound is the story of two veterans, one black and one white, who experiences racism and PTSD after returning to Mississippi after WWII. There are excellent performances from Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell and Mary J Blige.

12 Years a Slave

Harrowing, haunting and devastating, 12 Years a Slave is the film that won Steve McQueen Oscars for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free American who was kidnapped and put to work on plantations for 12 years before being released, featuring one of the most impressive ensemble casts of recent times.

Ex_Machina

One of the smartest sci-fi hits of the past decade, with a perfectly uncanny performance from Alicia Vikander as an AI robot created by Oscar Isaac’s tyrannical tech genius. The film considers what it means to be alive, and how technological advancements can stretch even further than the depths of human depravity.