Best movies on Netflix: 20 films you need to watch right now
Best movies on Netflix: 20 films you need to watch right now
Want to find something to watch on Netflix without spending an hour flicking through movies? With thousands of options at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in cinematic limbo. Finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of hassle.
We’re here to help.
In an effort to determine the best of the best, we’ve put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by TechRadar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
Spend less time browsing through movies, and more time watching them. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are a must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.
Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!
1. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Love it or hate it, the 8th film in the Star Wars franchise is immortalized in the canon now. It stumbles in parts, slows to a crawl in others, and fails to do what you’d expect. Some might call these the markings of a failed film. But we’d say it’s these traits – this break from tradition – that gave us a Star Wars film that we couldn’t have ever imagined. Beyond simply defying expectations for the sake of it, The Last Jedi grapples with complex themes of morality in a new republic – with minority characters leading the charge as tried-and-true characters are laid to rest. This is jolting for a franchise that’s been dominated by the same few characters for the last two decades but it’s this change that pushes The Last Jedi in a new direction – one in which it can survive without its main heroes. It might not have the nostalgia of the originals or the fast, fun nature of Solo: A Star Wars Story, but sometimes we need to shed the skin tradition to create something new. (Hint: In case that’s lost on you, that’s the exact point that Yoda makes abundantly clear to Luke at the temple.)
Blackfish, the controversial nature documentary that follows a misunderstood and often violent killer whale in captivity at SeaWorld, made a huge splash when it was released in 2013. Its story has moved audiences to take action in a way that few other films have ever done, going so far as forcing lawmakers’ hands to introduce legislation that will demand that SeaWorld release killer whales back into the wild. It’s an emotional ride through the highs and lows of the aquatic entertainment industry, one that reveals the real consequences of keeping animals where they don’t belong.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
3. It Follows
Considered a modern horror classic by many, It Follows sees a young girl (Maika Monroe) terrorized by a sexually-transmitted demon. This terrifying apparition looks different every time and will chase you relentlessly until you either pass it on by sleeping with someone else, or until it catches up to you and finishes you off for good. To make matters worse, if the person you pass it on to dies, it will turn its attention back to you again. Did we mention that it can only be seen by the people that have been ‘infected’, so your friends won’t be able to help as much as they’d like to? Yeah, it kinda sucks. Stylish, atmospheric and with a terrific John Carpenter-inspired synth score, It Follows in an effective horror movie which may suffer a little from a few odd decisions by its characters, but is still well worth watching.
4. The Imitation Game
There are plenty of great war films on Netflix (including Full Metal Jacket, coming up later on this list. But if you’re looking for a different side of the battle, the one fought with minds and willpower rather than guns and grenades, watch The Imitation Game. Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing and Keira Knightley’s Joan Clarke are an interesting on-screen duo, and the race to beat the Nazi war machine adds palpable tension without ever showing a drop of blood.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
5. Full Metal Jacket
An astonishing work of immense power, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Full Metal Jacket examines man’s innate desire to kill, memorably told against the backdrop of the controversial Vietnam War. The film is split in two halves – the first, which is set at boot camp, follows a young recruit who is pushed right over the edge by an abusive drill sergeant. The latter half focuses on a military journalist who watches in horror as Vietnamese people are killed indiscriminately by the soldiers he’s following for reasons they don’t even understand. Will they make a killing machine out of him, too? Essential viewing for war film aficionados.
6. Cartel Land
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film, Cartel Land explores the state of the ongoing drug problem along the U.S.-Mexican border. On one side is the heroic Dr. José Mireles, the leader of the vigilante group, the Autodefensas. On the other is Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon. The two are stuck in a never-ending battle against the cartels, putting both themselves and their families on the line to fight for what they think is right.
IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
7. Schindler’s List
This is one of the most affecting movies that you will ever see. Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a factory owner who begins to help his Jewish workers during World War II after he sees them persecuted by the Nazi Germans, the movie is a study in brevity. Steven Spielberg manages to find the human stories in the atrocity of WWII without shying away from the true horror of what happened during the conflict. Winner of several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Schindler’s List is a film you won’t soon forget.
8. Beasts of No Nation
Beasts of No Nation stars Idris Elba as a war lord, and follows the story of Agu, portrayed by child actor Abraham, who is forced to become a child soldier during the civil war of an unnamed African country. What follows is a nightmare: boys stolen from their families are forced to kill and through blood take their vengeance on the world. It’s a war movie with a profound message, and is probably the closest equivalent of Apocalypse Now that we’re like to see in the 21st century.
IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
9. City of God
If you’ve blasted your way through both seasons of Narcos and want another South American crime epic to get stuck into, consider City of God as your next destination. Based on true events that took place over three decades in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, the film accurately recreates the lively and energetic vibe of Brazil, but also counters it some truly harrowing scenes of devastating violence. In the ‘City of God’, children brandish firearms and kill each other indiscriminately over petty drug deals. While that might sound like too much to bear, the terrific filmmaking on display from Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund will keep you on the edge of your seat, as will the film’s authentic performers and compelling story. One of the greatest films of all time, City of God is like Goodfellas scored to a samba beat.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
A visual treat, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finds the intergalactic heroes thrust into another adventure, one that could reveal the identity of Peter Quill’s father. Even more spectacular than the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continually aims to surprise the audience, with simultaneously keeping its action and comedy levels high.
11. The Hateful Eight
There are few directors who have filmographies as celebrated as Quentin Tarantino, and The Hateful Eight only goes to further add to his illustrious career. Based several years after the Civil War in a cabin in Wyoming in the dead of winter, this high-intensity thriller puts a wide variety of suspicious individuals together in the same room, and it’s uncertain whether or not anyone will make it out alive. This film heavily features Tarantino’s masterful use of dialogue and cinematography to really make you feel like you’re part of the action as you suspiciously watch everyone in the room – trying to figure out who is trustworthy.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
12. The Babadook
Horror movies have fallen on hard times. There, I said it. Spending the past decade relying on jump shocks and excessive gore to win over new audiences, it’s rare to find a film as well-made, thought-out and genuinely scary as The Babadook. Two parts horror, one part mind game, the film explores the feelings of guilt that come along with death, the darkest sides of parenthood and the sheer creepiness of kids’ imaginations.
IMDB Rating: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
13. Marvel’s Doctor Strange
Marvel’s first cosmic adventure film, Doctor Strange sees the talented surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) turn to the mystical arts in search of a cure for his mangled hands. More arrogant than the usual Marvel superhero (yes, even more so than Tony Stark), Doctor Strange must learn to get over his own ego before he can rise up and be the hero he was born to be. With trippy visuals and mind-bending twists that make the film Inception look tame by comparison, Doctor Strange is both familiar and incredibly unique among the superhero blockbusters that have been released so far.
If you haven’t seen it, Amelie is pretty much the French equivalent of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Starring Audrey TauTou, it’s a weird, quirky and all-around whimsical joyride around Paris as we see Amelie develop from a reserved waitress into a romantically involved extrovert. For introverts, Amelie is a spiritually moving film, taking on mental ailments like depression, social anxiety and agoraphobia head-on while still providing a solid rom-com foundation for all fans of the genre.
IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
15. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
An utterly enchanting and completely magnificent live-action adaptation of one of Disney’s most celebrated animated classics, Beauty and the Beast absolutely nails the source material — maybe even betters it in some regards. Much of the praise can be bestowed upon Emma Watson, who plays Belle with grace and warmth. The same can be said about Dan Stevens, who spends the film injecting life into the computer-generated Beast. Luke Evans comes close to stealing the show, though as the vicious and vain Gaston. We’re also pleased to report that all of the original film’s songs are present and accounted for, so gather the whole family and settle in for a wonderful night singing, laughing and crying.
16. Moonrise Kingdom
Starting September 16, Moonrise Kingdom will be the only Wes Anderson film available on Netflix. And while that sounds somewhat depressing, it’s anything but. By limiting us to a single Anderson flick at a time, Netflix is slowly building our palette for the director’s dry wit, exceptional pacing and phenomenal casting that seems to permeate each film under his supervision. Wonderfully smart and expertly crafted, Moonrise Kingdom might not overtake The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Royal Tenenbaums as our favorite Wes Anderson films, but that doesn’t make it any less of an excellent movie on its own.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
17. The Fundamentals of Caring
The Fundamentals of Caring is proof that you can take actor Paul Rudd, put him in literally any movie about any subject and he automatically makes it 10 to 20 times better. With any other actor in the leading role, The Fundamentals of Caring – based on the book by Jonathan Evison – would’ve likely had no lasting appeal. And yet, with Rudd behind the wheel of the ship the film becomes a comical road trip movie with a compelling twist that’s one part Eurotrip and two parts 50/50. The stakes here are that Rudd is taking care of an emotionally sheltered, physically handicapped teen whose bark is fiercer than his bite. The friendship the two form ultimately help the other grow out of their shells. It may come off as trite, cliché and over-wrought at times, but if you stick through the saccharine, there’s a well-crafted story here that might melt your heart.
IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
18. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the uplifting documentary of one man who never gave up on his … uh, dreams. Jiro became the first three-star Michelin sushi chef in Japan and has been called a national treasure, all the while honing his mantra of being his best self. Jiro’s commitment to his craft that carries the film – but it’s his two sons, both famous sushi chefs like their father that make the film one of the best documentaries ever made. If you’re hungry for a bit of inspiration in an evermore depressing world, pull up a seat.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Having achieved monumental success with its film Frozen, Disney had a lot to live up to with its next major ‘Disney Princess’ movie, and it still managed to blow away expectations with Moana – a visually stunning tale of an independent free-spirit (played by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) who sets off on a journey to save her island from a devastating curse indadvertedly set by the selfish demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Though it follows all the familiar Disney beats that we’ve come to expect over the years, Moana is well written, wonderfully animated and terrifically acted. You may also find its many catchy songs stuck in your head for days after watching it.
20. Dallas Buyers Club
This is a movie that was close to not being made. Just as shooting began, funding was pulled and it means that star Matthew McConaughey may have had to drop out, as he needed to put all the weight on he had lost for playing Ron Woodroof, an electrician diagnosed with Aids. Money was found, though, and we’re glad it was as this is a sometimes harrowing but strangely uplifting account of someone who goes to the extra mile to get their hands on an experimental Aids drug that can lessen the effects of the disease. McConaughey is fantastic as the makeshift drug runner while his partner in crime is Jared Leto as Rayon, a trans woman who helps him on his journey. Despite the budget cut, there was Oscar nominations aplenty for the film with it winning Best Makeup. Considering the makeup was done on $250 budget, this is an impress feat.