What to watch on Sky Cinema and Now TV: 50 of the best films

Harry Fletcher
·16-min read

For those night where you're looking for a good old crowd-pleaser, Sky Cinema is pretty hard to beat.

There are streaming services which might be better for foreign-language favourites and cult indie dramas, but the channel – and Now TV, which features more than 1,000 of the same films online for subscribers – is home to one of the most impressive movie selections UK fans will find anywhere.

One of the things that sets it apart is the choice of family-friendly options and big franchises – Batman, Harry Potter and the MCU can all be found there – with enough blockbuster choices to keep fans going through lockdown.

There’s so much choice, in fact, that it can be difficult to know where to start. These are our picks for the best 50 films on Sky Cinema right now.

Black Swan

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This dark psychological horror from Darren Aronofsky played with themes of obsession, psychosis and the pursuit of perfection, focusing on the power struggles behind the scenes of a production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. The movie made an incredible $329m off the back of a $13m budget, with the relatively small production bursting with big ideas.

The Big Lebowski

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The Coen Brothers’ oddball classic The Big Lebowski holds irresistible cult appeal and kitschy charm, telling the story of a slacker, stoner and bowling enthusiast who inadvertently ends up entwined in a kidnapping plot following a case of mistaken identity. The film tread the line between zany charm, rollocking action and intrigue perfectly, with Jeff Bridges’ performance, just like The Dude’s rug, tying everything together.

Django Unchained

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No-one splatters blood around the screen quite like Quentin Tarantino, and there’s more bloodlust than ever in this revenge tale set in the Antebellum South. It sees a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) attempt to infiltrate a plantation to find his wife, with the help of an eccentric bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz).

Kick-Ass

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Matthew Vaughan’s sparky, original action movie proved a fitting anecdote to some of the more bloated and indulgent superhero movies of the 00s. It made a star of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, while Chloe Grace-Moretz also burst onto the big screen at the age of 13 as badass vigilante Hit-Girl.

Zombieland

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A likeable, off-beat zombie comedy treat packed with introverted indie aesthetics, Zombieland follows a bunch of unlikely survivors on a road trip across pandemic ravaged north America. Woody Harrelson is perfect as a Twinkie-loving gun-slinger, while Emma Stone gives one of her best early performances alongside Jesse Eisenberg’s neurotic lead. It’s worth watching for Bill Murray's cameo alone.

Predator

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Featuring one of the great 1980s action movie monsters, the Predator is as utterly terrifying as it is unstoppable. The film focuses on a super-advanced extra terrestrial which gradually picks off Arnold Schwarzenegger’s military team in the jungle. Expect action, tension and “one ugly mother******”.

Carlito’s Way

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Mid-career Al Pacino at his best, Carlito’s Way finds the actor in typically compelling form as an ex-con drawn inexorably back into a world of crime. The movie saw Pacino re-team with Scarface’s Brian De Palma. It didn’t quite match the former’s grim intensity and garnered middling reviews at the time, but it’s gone on to be a favourite among fans and one well worth revisiting.

Rear Window

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Jimmy Stewart plays a bed bound photographer who begins to spy on his neighbours in Rear Window, one of the sharpest thrillers ever made. The film drips with paranoia and intrigue, as Stewart goes from observing the surrounding houses out of boredom to investigating what he believes to be a heinous crime conducted inside one of them. Among Hitchcock's finest.

Die Hard

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Bruce Willis came out of relative obscurity to lead the cast of this perfectly formed action blockbuster, while the late, great Alan Rickman gives a fantastic performance as sinister bad guy Hans Gruber. The pair were perfectly matched – with Rickman’s villain proving the perfect, conniving adversary to Willis’s all-action, all-American everyman John McClane.

Philadelphia

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Widely hailed as the finest performance of Tom Hanks’s career, Philadelphia follows a gay man living with AIDS, who takes to the courts after being unfairly dismissed by his law firm. It was one of the first mainstream movies to tackle the AIDS epidemic, focusing on the stigma surrounding the virus and the appalling discrimination faced by many in the 80s and 90s.

Once Upon a Time in the West

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Sergio Leone’s sprawling spaghetti Western classic stars Charles Bronson as the hero, protecting the citizens of the Old West from a murderous hired gun played by Henry Fonda. It’s one of the films which led Leone to be offered the director’s job on The Godfather a few years later, though he turned down the offer in favour of his own film, Once Upon a Time in America.

Detective Pikachu

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This bright, zany blend of live action and animation is a whole heap of fun, and much better than it had any right to be. Set in the world of Pokemon, where trainers and creatures live side by side, Ryan Reynolds’ wisecracking detective Pikachu joins forces with a young man (Justice Smith, excellent) to find out the truth about his late father.

Eighth Grade

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YouTube star-turned-stand-up-comic Bo Burnham is the man behind Eighth Grade – a stunning work, and one of the most breathtaking debuts of recent years. Like the best coming-of-age movies, Eighth Grade manages to make the troubles and angst of its protagonist (in this case the anxious and socially awkward 13-year-old Kayla) truly universal and recognisable.

The Breakfast Club

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More than an 80s nostalgia trip, Molly Ringwald stars in a teen drama packed with social commentary and satire, telling the story of a disparate group of high school kids who discover a common connection while spending Saturday in detention.

Into the Wild

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An ode to giving up all your earthly possessions and heading off with a head full of dreams. This wistful and inspiring adventure follows a young man who drops everything to take the dangerous journey across the US into the Alaskan wilderness.

The Favourite

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A wonderfully idiosyncratic period drama from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), with Olivia Colman managing to be incendiary, vulnerable and charismatic all at once as Queen Anne. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are both sublime as the confidantes vying for her affections.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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Campy, cheesy and tonnes of fun, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again picks up 10 years after the events of the first movie, travelling back once again to the Greek island for summer romance, feel-good ensembles and a lot of questionable singing from some of the finest actors on the planet.

Captain Phillips

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Captain Phillips tells the story of a real life captain who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks’ performance portrayed fear and bravery in equal measure, with the viewer believing his character and the imminent threat to his life throughout. Director Paul Greengrass’s finest work.

Walk the Line

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Joaquin Phoenix perfectly captured the intensity and darkness at the heart of one of Johnny Cash in this acclaimed biopic. The film follows his life from a child in an unhappy home, to member of the air force and eventually a musical star, detailing his struggles with substance abuse and his marriage to June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).

Widows

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Hugely entertaining crime thriller Widows marked something of a departure for Steve McQueen, after harder-hitting dramas Hunger, Shame and 12 Years A Slave. The film tells the story of four women forced to organise a heist after their crime boss husbands are killed following a botched job. Viola Davis gives a powerhouse performance as Veronica, who leads an unlikely group in the face of unimaginable adversity and challenging circumstances.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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Leonardo DiCaprio gave the most bombastic performance of his career as rogue trader Jordan Belfort, tracking his involvement in the outrageous fraud and corruption of Wall Street in the 80s. Jonah Hill, though, is the one who delivers the film’s surprise package, showing all of his talent with a fabulous turn as Belfort’s associate Donnie Azoff. It also holds the world record for the most swearing ever in a single film. ****ing marvellous.

The Shawshank Redemption

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Shawshank Redemption has become one of the world’s favourite films, but it wasn’t always that way. It was anything but a box office smash, making a huge loss when it came out in 1994, but after finding an audience through word of mouth and video release. Frank Darabont film has permeated the zeitgeist forever – watch it now and rediscover one of the most affecting prison dramas ever made.

Burning

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This bleak, but brilliant existential thriller from director Lee Chang-dong captured a “genuinely weird and refreshingly casual” tone when it arrived in cinemas back in 2019. The Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan was full of praise for Korean star Steven Yeun at the time, who “deserves to be a household name” following his performance as a “debonair member of Korea’s one per cent”.

District 9

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Peter Jackson produced this hugely ambitious sci-fi cult hit from Neil Blomkamp, which tells the story of a segregated group of alien settlers in futuristic South Africa. It’s been read in a number of different ways, perhaps most obviously as a parable for apartheid, and there are a whole lot of big ideas thrown in among the inventive and original visuals.

The Matrix

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The Matrix not only represented one of the coolest films of the 90s, but also introduced the revolutionary action sequences and filming techniques, including the world to bullet-time and amazing 360-degree cinematography. The sequels may have failed to live up to the promise of the original, but The Matrix remains one of the most influential action films ever made.

Gravity

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Alfonso Cuaron turned his hand to sci-fi with this stunning, claustrophobic thriller from 2013, featuring some of the most visceral, gut-wrenching set-pieces set in space ever. There’s a hefty plot hole to look out for, but the storytelling is so good and the (lack of) atmosphere so compelling that it won’t put you off.

Aladdin (1992)

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Aided by a magic flying carpet and a hugely charismatic genie (voiced by the late, great Robin Williams), ‘diamond in the rough’ Aladdin sets about winning the affections of Princess Jasmine and defeating the evil Jafar in this loveable film – one blessed with some of Disney’s best songs and vivid characters. The 2019 remake is also available, but we'd stick to the original.

Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood

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Tarantino’s love letter to Tinseltown is as overblown, bombastic and arguably indulgent as the director has ever been, but it’s still a feast for the senses. The script, as ever, is beautifully and cuttingly written, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading actor and Brad Pitt’s loyal stunt double taking us on a journey through LA’s murky underworld.

Titanic

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In many ways a high bench mark in modern, big-budget blockbuster filmmaking. Two worlds collide when poor artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) hustles his way onto the maiden voyage of the Titanic and falls in love with first-class passenger Rose (Kate Winslet). It’s got a bit of everything, matching an aching love story with some of the most devastating disaster movie sequences ever put to screen.

BlacKkKlansman

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This dark comedy is as funny as it is terrifying, tackling the most uncomfortable of subject matters with real panache. The film tells the true story of detective Ron Stallworth — a black police officer in Colorado Springs who infiltrated the KKK in the 70s. For all the comedic chops of leads John David Washington and Adam Driver and the whip smart script, the overt racial hatred the film focuses on makes for a chilling experience.

The Godfather

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The Godfather is so synonymous with greatness, it’s sometimes taken for granted just how close to cinematic perfection the film gets. The entire film is weighty with gravitas, and the incredible cinematography and atmosphere of the piece is testament to the work of Francis Ford Coppola's position as one of the leading filmmakers in Hollywood history. He gets the best out of some of the biggest names in the industry, with powerhouse performances from the likes of Robert Duvall, James Caan and not least Marlon Brando.

Vertigo

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Hitchcock’s masterful exercise in tension, intrigue and mystery are combined to devastating effect in this highlight from his late 50s peak. It follows Jimmy Stewart’s acrophobic private investigator, who is approached by a man to follow his wife (enigmatic Kim Novak) under strange circumstances.

Singin’ in the Rain

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Hollywood has a long history of making movies about itself, and one of the earliest and most successful self-reflective efforts is timeless musical Singin’ in the Rain. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor appear as three stars making the transition from silent movies to the talkies in the 20s, with the movie capturing the enchantment and wonder of the golden age by the bucket load.

Zero Dark Thirty

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Katheryn Bigelow’s visceral, captivating war drama tells the story of the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 911. It’s a look at the controversial world of torture and advanced techniques used in tracking him down, featuring a powerhouse central performance from Jessica Chastain as obsessive CIA analyst Maya.

Seven

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A serial killer commits murders based on the seven deadly sins in David Fincher’s delightfully twisted classic. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman make for one of the best cop duos in film, attempting to decipher clues from the scenes of the brutal killings before it’s too late. It’s creepy, horrifying and unforgettable.

Saving Private Ryan

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The opening ten minutes of Steven Spielberg’s war epic are some of the most harrowing ever put to screen, capturing the tragedy and chaos of the D-Day landings. There are performances to match the action, too. Tom Hanks brought a stoicism and gravitas to the enigmatic Captain Miller and his grounded performance helped to provide some of the film’s most affecting moments.

Wall.E

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Pixar’s best work since Toy Story 2 follows a lonely robot on an abandoned earth, left to clear up the planet while the surviving population are sent into space. It’s often overlooked in favour of more high-profile or more marketable movies in the Pixar canon, but the emotion the filmmakers managed to convey in this touching and largely wordless movie is a testament to their genius.

Roman Holiday

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Travel around the sunlit streets of the Italian capital on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in this endlessly charming romcom. Hepburn claimed a deserved Best Actress Oscar for her performance as a European princess who falls for an American reporter in William Wyler’s stylish masterpiece.

Star Wars: A New Hope

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The film that inspired millions across the galaxy, and kick-started a fantasy series that would go on to make billions of dollars, spawning dozens of movies and TV shows – some better than others. Vivid characters, sprawling storytelling, heroes and villains, drones and clones – this one has it all.

Jaws

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Spend a little time onboard the Orca, head the salty sea dog tales from Quint and battle a killer shark in this unforgettable thriller which made Stephen Spielberg’s name, showing the director as a master of tension and storytelling.

Avengers: Endgame

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“The first truly great superhero movie,” was the way the Standard’s reviewer described this, the most critically acclaimed Marvel movie ever and highest-grossing film of all time. Endgame saw the culmination of divergent strands of Marvel’s Phase Three, balancing the weight of expectation, clarifying character storylines beautifully and delivering something that satisfied pretty much everyone – one of the most impressive feats of modern franchise filmmaking.

Mary Poppins

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Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (with an endearingly hit-and-miss cockney accent) are perfect leads in this romp over the rooftops of Edwardian London, which is packed with whimsy and wonder, and always worth introducing new generations to. The sequel, with a charming performance from Emily Blunt, is also ready to watch.

The Godfather II

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One of the greatest movies ever made and famously the only sequel to ever win the Best Picture Oscar, the second movie in Francis Ford Coppola’s peerless mob trilogy expands both forward and backwards in time. We see Robert De Niro give an Oscar-winning performance as a young Vito Corleone, while the troubled relationship between Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s Michael and Kay Corleone is brought to the fore.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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This visually stunning animation became one of the most idiosyncratic, diverse and magically realised superhero movies when it arrived back in 2018. It sees geeky protagonist Miles Morales become Spider-Man, joining forces with other Spider heroes from a plethora of parallel universes to defeat the evil Kingpin.

2001: A Space Odyssey

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A movie that contemplates the entire span of human existence, the implications of artificial intelligence and other weighty themes. Director Stanley Kubrick’s packed this sci-fi epic with bombastic, yet somehow subtle storytelling and visual effects that still stack up more than 50 years later.

Clueless

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More 90s than tamagotchis, Sunny-D and pogs all rolled into one, 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.

Taxi Driver

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Martin Scorsese’s film drips with sleaze. Despite it coming after the second Godfather, for which he won an Oscar, it’s the central part of Travis Bickle that really made De Niro, De Niro. He’s fuelled by disgust, by disdain and by his depression in the movie, taking the viewer on a sleazy, grime-filled ride around the gutters of New York.

Blade Runner

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Few sci-fi adaptations have ever conveyed the originality of their source material quite like Blade Runner captured the essence of Phillip K Dick’s dystopian classic Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? There’s so much to enjoy here – the iconic soundtrack, the incredible world-building and a bleak, but brilliantly realised dystopian view of futuristic cityscapes. Harrison Ford also gives one of his most impressive performances.

The Dark Knight

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It’s the action movie we need, but not the one it deserves now… Christopher Nolan's cerebral take on superhero movies changed the face of the genre forever, featuring a masterful performance from the late Heath Ledger and some of the smartest action sequences of the 00s.

ET

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Steven Spielberg’s 80s classic is one of the most enduring coming-on-age stories ever put to film, full of the child-like wonder. It follows Elliot, a young boy from California who befriends a strange and beguiling alien with incredible powers. It’s a wonderful piece of work which marked Spielberg out as one of the most awe-inspiring directors of his generation.