The 85 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (April 2021)

Our handy, extensive guide is updated weekly with all-new picks.

Trying to find the best movie to watch on Netflix can be a daunting challenge. We’ve all been there. You’ve decided you’re going to watch something. You have the entirety of Netflix at your disposal, including even a pared down list of films you’ve already bookmarked to watch at a future date. But then there’s the choosing. You’ve gotta find something that fits your mood, or something you and your friend/significant other/couch companion can agree on. You spend hours browsing, and by the time you stumble on something you think maybe is the one, it’s too late, you’re too tired, and indecision has won out.

Never fear, though, because we here at Collider have a guide to help you find the perfect Netflix movies available in the U.S. We’ve thumbed through the library and assembled a list of some of the best films currently available for streaming, from classics to hidden gems to new releases and beyond. This list of the best movies on Netflix is updated weekly with all-new choices, so be sure to return the next time you’re looking for something great to watch.

RELATED: Best Hidden Gems and Underrated Movies on Netflix

Crimson Peak

via Universal Pictures

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam

The first thing to know about Guillermo del Toro’s misunderstood 2015 film Peak is that it’s a Gothic romance, not a horror movie. There are ghosts to be sure, and definitely spooky parts, but the film is more inspired by Jane Eyre or Rebecca than it is The Conjuring. And that’s why it’s so great. Set in 1901, the story follows an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) who meets a dashing English gentleman (Tom Hiddleston) and falls in love. The two quickly marry, and she moves to a remote part of England to live in an aging estate with her new husband and his icy sister (Jessica Chastain). The estate ends up being full of ghosts, and twists abound as our young protagonist finds herself in over her head. It’s a haunting, romantic, and chilling ghost story that’s lovingly crafted by one of the best filmmakers working today. – Adam Chitwood

Rush

via Universal Pictures

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Peter Morgan

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Pierfrancesco Favino

Once upon a time, the creator of The Crown teamed up with legendary director Ron Howard and two Marvel stars to make an exciting, racing drama – and nobody saw it. 2013’s is a criminally underrated film, and it features one of Chris Hemsworth’s best dramatic performances as daring Formula One driver James Hunt. The film chronicles Hunt’s rivalry with Austrian driver Nikki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), with each actor getting pretty even screentime as Howard crafts a story of two very different men who were driven to be the best at what they do. The 1970s aesthetic is tangibly conjured by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and the racing scenes are wildly exciting. – Adam Chitwood

Saving Private Ryan

via Amblin Entertainment

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Robert Rodat

Cast: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies

With Schindlers List in 1993, Steven Spielberg — famous for crafting people-pleasing blockbusters — proved once and for all that he was perfectly capable of crafting a very serious drama. While it netted him his first Best Director Oscar, the experience took a lot out of Spielberg and after moving straight into Jurassic Park, he took a three-year break before coming back with The Lost World: Jurassic Park. After the critical disappointment of that sequel, it seemed as though Spielberg had something to prove, and while his first stab at drama post-Schindler was the mixed bag that is Amistad, only months after wrapping that slavery-centric drama he moved onto what would become one of his crowning achievements: Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan is one of the definitive World War II films, as it reveals a Spielberg we had never seen before in its gut-wrenching opening sequence. The film continues to soar long after the invasion of Normandy is over, and buoyed by an impeccable ensemble, Spielberg’s tribute to those that served our country in WWII is both entertaining and revealing—these were school teachers, mail workers, and barbers. And while the film nabbed Spielberg his second Best Director trophy, it was memorably upset by Shakespeare in Love for the big Best Picture prize. Regardless, it still stands as one of the best films of Spielberg’s illustrious career. – Adam Chitwood

Brokeback Mountain

via Focus Features

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana

Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway

Winner of three Oscars including Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Score (and it should have won Best Picture), Mountain remains a towering, tragic romantic drama. Based on the novel of the same name by Annie Proulx, the film stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two strangers who meet in 1963 when they’re hired to herd sheep through the summer. During their tenure they develop a passionate sexual relationship that turns romantic, only for the complexity of their feelings – towards each other, and towards themselves – to haunt them as the years go by. It’s a deeply sensitive and emotional story, boasting a pair of powerful performances by Ledger and Gyllenhaal that will linger long after the credits have rolled. – Adam Chitwood

Training Day

via Warner Bros

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: David Ayer

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Scott Glenn, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eva Mendes

The film that won Denzel Washington his first Best Actor Oscar also still holds up pretty well as a nail-biting crime thriller. Day follows an LAPD officer named Jake (Ethan Hawke) on his first day as part of an evaluation by an esteemed narcotics officer named Alonzo (Denzel Washington), but as the day goes on Jake discovers that not only is Alonzo corrupt, but the entire day is a set-up for which he could take the fall. Washington give a phenomenal performance as an antagonist who is both charming and terrifying at the same time, while Hawke hods his own opposite the veteran actor. The third act is still a bit incredulous, but the film is worth watching for Washington’s performance alone. – Adam Chitwood

Batman Begins

via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and Ken Watanabe

Before he crafted the masterful sequel The Dark Knight, filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to first reinvent the Batman franchise from the ground up with the “gritty reboot” Begins. This movie came on the heels of the exceedingly goofy Batman & Robin and thus had to prove to audiences a grounded, realistic Batman story was one worth watching. Casting Christian Bale in the lead role helped, but Nolan’s sprawling, Gotham-centric story feels more in line with a compelling character drama than a superhero movie—and that was by design. Batman Begins spawned not only two direct sequels but a trend in Hollywood of revitalizing franchises with the “gritty reboot” treatment, and this wholly influential redo still holds up over a decade later as a terrific Batman origin story. – Adam Chitwood

The Dark Knight

via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine

One of the best superhero movies ever made, full-stop, Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Christopher Nolan successfully introduced the world to the idea of a “gritty reboot” with Batman Begins, but for the follow-up he crafted an epic, surprising, and downright thrilling story of escalation. Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker is iconic, offering up an enigmatic villain who consistently throws Christian Bale’s Batman for a loop. Then you have Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent, as The Dark Knight crafts a meaty, fulfilling, and heartbreaking arc for this Bruce Wayne foil. On top of all of that, Nolan is essentially making a film about the post-9/11 world—one in which fighting “the bad guys” only leads to bigger and more severe devastation. How do you confront an enemy that just wants to watch the world burn? There’s a reason The Dark Knight has lingered in the public consciousness for a decade, and it still holds up as the best of the best in the face of the bevy of superhero movies that soon followed. – Adam Chitwood

Bad Trip

via Netflix

Director: Kitao Sakurai

Writers: Dan Curry, Eric Andre, and Kitao Sakurai

Cast: Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish

Trip is outrageously juvenile, and will make you laugh incredibly hard. The film is a cross between Jackass and a traditional road trip comedy, as Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery play a pair of friends who drive from Florida to New York so that Andre’s character can track down the girl of his dreams. Hot on their tale is Howery’s characters sister, fresh out of a prison break and played by Tiffany Haddish. But every scene in the film is shot as a prank, with unwitting strangers serving as the background and supporting characters throughout the movie. It’s silly and embarrassing, but also singles out how ridiculous some of the tropes in traditional romcoms are – like when Andre breaks out into song in the middle of a mall, surrounded by strangers with “WTF?” looks on their faces. And be warned, this is insanely R-rated. – Adam Chitwood

Shutter Island

via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Max von Sydow

What happens when a master filmmaker like Martin Scorsese decides to make a twisty little thriller? You get Island, a great and underrated movie in Scorsese’s vast filmography. Based on the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as a pair of U.S. Marshals who arrive on the titular island to investigate a disappearance at an enigmatic psychiatric facility. From the get-go something feels off, and Scorsese delights in following DiCaprio’s character around this island through the darkness, revealing twists and turns along the way. It’s the kind of dramatic thriller you immediately want to watch again once it’s over, and DiCaprio gives a terrific as a man who seems to be unraveling. – Adam Chitwood

ParaNorman

via Focus Features

Directors: Sam Fell and Chris Butler

Writer: Chris Butler

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Alex Borstein, Leslie Man, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, and Tucker Albrizzi

If you’re looking for a fun family movie that’s also genuinely spooky and has a surprising message, I urge you to check out . The stop-motion animated film hails from LAIKA, the same studio behind Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, and it’s absolutely one of their best films. It revolves around a young kid named Norman who has the ability to see and speak with the dead, which comes in handy when his small Massachusetts town is overrun by terrifying ghosts. The story draws heavily from iconic 80s movies like The Goonies and E.T. but never feels derivative, and actually carries with it a surprising and emotional message about bullying and anger, and the complexity of emotions that kids can sometimes feel. It’s also just a ton of fun. – Adam Chitwood

Enola Holmes

by Alex Bailey/Legendary

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Writer: Jack Thorne

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Louis Partridge, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Helena Bonham Carter

Holmes is one of the best and most charming Netflix original movies released thus far. Based on the book series of the same name by Nancy Springer, the period mystery follows Millie Bobby Brown’s titular character, who is the youngest Holmes sibling and has been raised nearly in solitude by her single mother. But when she awakes one day to find her mother is missing, she takes matters into her own hands and sneaks into London to solve the case. The film is tremendously fun as Enola fearlessly follows leads and hunts for clues, but it’s also a surprisingly touching mother-daughter story with legitimately feminist themes. The script actually takes time to consider what it means to be a woman in a man’s world in a way that’s organic (and important) to the story at hand. It’s one of Brown’s best performances, but Henry Cavill is also a delight as Sherlock Holmes himself. Once the movie ends you’ll be begging for Netflix to make many more sequels. – Adam Chitwood

The Conjuring

via Warner Bros.

Director: James Wan

Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland

James Wan had already made a name for himself in the horror genre with mega-franchise starters SAW in 2004 and Insidious in 2010, and he pulled off the impossible once again with the 2013 pic, Conjuring. This is a film that was “so scary and intense” at the time that Warner Bros. slapped it with an R rating despite the fact that there was no blood, gore, excessive violence, or profanity. I can remember a convention hall full of people muttering to themselves and shifting nervously as the “clapping game” scene played out, to gasps and thunderous applause. You can relive the same terrifying experience in the comfort of your own home. The Conjuring introduces Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), based on the real-life paranormal investigators. They attempt to help the traumatized Perron family whose farmhouse harbors a dark and deadly presence. The Warrens themselves soon discover that this is no mere hoax, but something much more sinister. The Conjuring is a fantastic addition to the horror genre and the start of a solid franchise. – Dave Trumbore

Rain Man

via United Artists

Director: Barry Levinson

Writers: Barry Levinson and Donald Bass

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, and Valeria Golino

Oscars Won: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor (Hoffman)

Man was the film that was supposed to finally land Tom Cruise his Oscar, but in the end he didn’t even get nominated. The film itself was a success—it notably won Best Picture, Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Dustin Hoffman—but in hindsight while Hoffman’s role is more showy, what Cruise is doing here is wildly impressive. The film tackles 80s yuppie selfishness in a unique way, as Cruise plays an entitled and abusive younger brother who discovers that his estranged father has died and left everything to his older, mentally challenged brother (Hoffman). Cruise’s character breaks Hoffman out of a health facility and sets about using him to gain the money, but throughout their eventful road trip he comes to love and care for his brother. This is a road movie to be sure, but it’s anchored by a complicated story tackling complicated emotions. – Adam Chitwood

Hook

via TriStar Pictures

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Jim V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo

Cast: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, and Charlie Korsmo

While was critically derided when it hit theaters in 1991, with criticisms of its tame approach leading Steven Spielberg to directly go all-in on terror with 1993’s Jurassic Park, the film was actually a huge success… for kids. Spielberg taps into something special here in his retelling of the Peter Pan story, and while it’s hard to put a finger on—many still maintain it’s one of Spielberg’s worst movies—the impact it had on an entire generation of children undeniable. Robin Williams plays a grown-up Peter Pan who’s forgotten all about his time in Neverland, until Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) steals his children and forces Peter to go back. It’s a struggle, as Peter keeps trying to deny any semblance of magic, and indeed at heart this is a story about reconnecting with your inner child. Perhaps that’s why it works so well for kids. Well that and the tremendous production design that brings Neverland to life in vivid fashion. Watch this one with your children and they won’t be disappointed. It’s also lowkey one of John Williams’ best scores. – Adam Chitwood

Superbad

via Columbia Pictures

Director: Greg Mottola

Writers: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Cast: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader

was pretty much a coming-of-age classic as soon as it hit theaters in 2007, as writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, director Greg Mottola, and producer Judd Apatow crafted a high school comedy that was equal parts heart and humor. While the comedy is indeed R-rated, there’s a sweetness to the friendship between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill’s characters that elevates this above your average raunchy comedy. It’s as much a story about a kid being afraid he’s gonna lose his friend at college as it is a story about trying to score alcohol for a high school party, and the surprising twists and turns make it all that much more memorable. – Adam Chitwood

Casino Royale

via EON

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Tobias Menzies

Considered by many to be the best Bond movie of them all, Royale introduced the world to Daniel Craig’s 007 — a gritty, swaggering post-Bourne Bond who can rough and tumble with the best of them. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell returns to the iconic spy franchise, bringing a bit of old school to the new generation, perfectly toeing the line between the classic must-have Bond moments (fast cars, shaken martinis, beautiful women, etc…) while elegantly updating the material at the same time. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is easily one of the most memorable Bond women, afforded a compelling and intimate relationship with the superspy beyond the standard seduction and Mads Mikkelsen’s villainous Le Chiffre is equally memorable (pretty sure some men are still wincing from that torture scene.) The perfect balance of classic and modern, Casino Royale is one of the best spy movies ever made, jam-packed with stunning set-pieces and all the best bits of the Bond legacy. – Haleigh Foutch

Sherlock Holmes

via Warner Bros.

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, and Eddie Marsan

In the months following Iron Man’s blockbuster success, Robert Downey Jr. doubled-down by filming a very different kind of iconic role: that of Sherlock Holmes. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his tough guy sensibilities to this 2009 adaptation Holmes, which positions Holmes as a bit of a superhero using slow-motion camera techniques and a punishing sound mix that makes you feel every punch landed by this surprisingly buff detective. The story finds Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Jude Law) investigating a plot to control Britain by supernatural means, with Rachel McAdams proving to be a bright spot as Irene Adler. This one’s fun. – Adam Chitwood

Django Unchained

via TWC

Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walton Goggins, and James Remar

Quentin Tarantino’s most financially successful film to date remains his 2012 Western epic Unchained, which is set in 1858 and tells the story of a freed slave’s (Jamie Foxx) quest to save his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a ruthless plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) – all with the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Django Unchained is tremendously unsettling in terms of providing an unflinching glimpse at the lives of slaves in America (and the cruelty inflicting upon them), but it also has that Tarantino touch that makes it wildly entertaining – a combination that may strike some as odd or in poor taste. However you fall, DiCaprio’s menacing performance is undeniably among his very best, Foxx’s arc is particularly impressive, and it’s hard to argue with Waltz’s Oscar win for his supporting turn. – Adam Chitwood

Mank

via Netflix

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Jack Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Tuppence Middleton, Charles Dance, and Tom Burke

Acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher’s first Netflix movie is catnip for cinephiles, as it charts the true-history behind the inspiration and writing of the screenplay for Citizen Kane. The film follows Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) through his trials and tribulations as a charming and in-demand script doctor, but also a few years later as he develops and writes the first draft of what would become Citizen Kane. chronicles the true-life inspirations for the characters and story of Kane, with Oldman delivering a towering performance as a beleaguered man who sees a shot at greatness and takes it. The execution is tremendous, as Fincher crafts a lush black-and-white feature that’s made to look (and sound) like it was released in 1941. Amanda Seyfried shines as actress Marion Davies and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deliver a lush throwback score that underlines the entire affair. – Adam Chitwood

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

via The Orchard

Director/Writer: Taika Waititi

Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, and Rachel House

Before Taika Waititi made one of the best MCU movies to date, and before he won an Oscar for Jojo Rabbit, he made a delightful New Zealand adventure movie in which a grumpy Sam Neill is forced to team up with a foul-mouthed child when the two are the target of a manhunt throughout the New Zealand bush. It’s based on an existing book, but in tone and execution for the Wilderpeople oftentimes feels like an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book we never knew about. It’s delightful and whimsical and a little terrifying, with Waititi’s playful anarchy filling the whole thing out for good measure. This movie is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. — Adam Chitwood

The Master

via The Weinstein Company

Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Rami Malek

Master is absolutely not a film for everyone, but if you’re into cerebral, meticulously crafted dramas that are thematically driven and leave much open to interpretation, give it a whirl. Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic drama can be viewed as a thinly veiled chronicle of the origins of Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard, or a treatise on the base nature of man, or a story about World War II PTSD. Or none of the above. Broadly speaking, Joaquin Phoenix plays a wiry, untamed WWII veteran who becomes enamored of a charistmatic man named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement in its early stages. The story tracks their dynamic, push-and-pull relationship buoyed by haunting cinematography, arresting performances, and an unsettling score by Johnny Greenwood. – Adam Chitwood

The Departed

via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: William Nicholson

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, and James Badge Dale

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime drama Departed is the film that finally won him the Best Director Oscar, but he was simply trying to have a good time. After serious epics like The Aviator and Gangs of New York, Scorsese admitted he opted to make a commercial film, choosing to remake the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs with an all-star cast. The result is a tremendously entertaining crime drama packed with stellar performances, and led by one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best turns ever. The film not only won the Oscar for Best Director, but also Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. – Adam Chitwood

Lady Bird

via A24 and Merie Wallace

Director/Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush

I’m so glad Bird exists and that it functions as an announcement that Greta Gerwig is not only a major talent, but also a talent that can go beyond herself. My fear going into Lady Bird was that the movie would be too autobiographical and Gerwig would have unintentionally created a parody of her mumblecore roles. Instead, she provided a film that was personal and specific. It’s a movie that relishes its lived-in relationships while never being exclusionary.

On my first viewing, I found the movie to be a very good example of the coming-of-age dramedy. Upon a repeat viewing, I see it as one of the best examples the genre has to offer. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are both amazing as they relish both the highs and lows of their mother-daughter relationship, and watching Lady Bird’s rocky senior year of high school, complete with all the honest missteps a teenager makes, turns Gerwig’s debut into an unforgettable feature. – Matt Goldberg

13th

via Netflix

Director: Ava DuVernay

Writers: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay follows up her acclaimed film Selma with a searing documentary that looks at the mass incarceration of minorities following the passage of the 13th amendment. As the documentary points out, it’s not just ingrained cultural racism that results in the widespread incarceration of African-Americans and other minorities.  There’s a financial incentive as well, and it’s good business to lock people up.  Goldberg

Rango

: Gore Verbinski

Writer: John Logan

Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant

After brilliantly bringing the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy to life, meticulous filmmaker Gore Verbinski tried his hand at animation – and won an Oscar in the process. ostensibly follows a pet chameleon who gets lost and stumbles upon a down-on-its-luck Western town populated by other talking animals, where he portrays himself as a tough drifter. The desperate townspeople plead with Rango to become their new sheriff, and hilarity ensues. The animated film features incredibly cinematography by legend Roger Deakins and stunning visuals, pulling heavily from the Western genre. – Adam Chitwood

Midnight Special

via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, and Jaeden Martell

If you’re into grounded, indie sci-fi movies you’ll want to check out Special. This underrated 2016 film takes place in Texas and follows a father (Michael Shannon) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Jaeden Martell) when it turns out his son has special powers. Chased down by both the government and a cult, the bond between father and son is tested in various ways. Adam Driver plays an NSA communications analyst who has his own vested interest in the boy, and while this sounds like the plot of a superhero movie, Nichols approaches the material in an extremely realistic and grounded manner. It’s a Sundance movie with stunning performances and minimalist visual effects, putting a heavy focus on character over plot twists or giant set pieces. And Shannon gives a deeply soulful turn as the boy’s father. – Adam Chitwood

Wildlife

via IFC Films

Director: Paul Dano

Writers: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp

The 2018 directorial debut of actor Paul Dano is a handsomely crafted and emotionally overwhelming chronicle of a marriage falling apart, all seen through the eyes of the couple’s young boy. Based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford, takes place in 1960 and follows a couple (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) and their teenage son as they move to Montana. Shortly after arriving, the father loses his job and is forced to take the only work he can – going off and fighting wildfires, leaving his wife and son behind to fend for themselves. Mulligan gives a quietly devastating performance as a single mother doing her best, and Gyllenhaal brings a seething intensity to the role of a man trying to hide his shame. Dano directs the whole thing with the care and confidence of a veteran auteur (his handle on shot composition is truly stunning), and the screenplay by Dano and Kazan is assured and poetic. This is a deeply emotional and mature family drama that proves Dano is the real-deal behind the camera, and it’s also lowkey one of the best films of the last few years. – Adam Chitwood

How to Train Your Dragon 2

via DreamWorks Animation

Director/Writer: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington

The best film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is also the most emotional one. The 2014 sequel to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place five years after the events of the first film and finds Hiccup coming into contact with his long-lost mother (played by Cate Blanchett) and battling a madman (Djimon Hounsou) who wants to take over the world. Compassion and empathy are prominent themes in this “kids movie” that may or may not leave parents in puddles of tears by its end. It’s a testament to Dean DeBlois’s filmmaking skills (with an assist by cinematographer Roger Deakins) that this movie is as great as it is, and as a bonus you get a truly wonderful score by composer John Powell. – Adam Chitwood

Nightcrawler

via Open Road Films

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton

An utterly dark yet compelling thriller in the vein of Taxi Driver, the 2014 film features one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performances ever. He plays an odd and hungrily ambitious freelance photographer named Lou who goes to grotesque lengths to capture exclusive footage of grisly crime scenes in Los Angeles. Riz Ahmed is heartbreaking as Lou’s assistant and Rene Russo gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the morning news director at a local station. If you’re into dark thrillers with standout performances, give this one a watch. – Adam Chitwood

Spotlight

via Open Road Films

Director: Tom McCarthy

Writers: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, and John Slattery

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 2015, is a tremendous achievement and a magnificent example of the tightrope walk many filmmakers must do when tackling touchy or controversial subject matter. In chronicling the Boston Globe’s investigation into systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic church, Spotlight never relishes in putting down the church itself, nor does it shy away from the horrible crimes perpetrated (and facilitated) by those in power. It’s an incredibly engaging and compelling story of good people trying to do a good thing, and all the challenges that come with standing up to a massive superpower. Moreover, the ensemble in this thing is one of the best in recent memory. Whether you’re a Best Picture completionist or not, Spotlight is well worth your time. – Adam Chitwood

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

via Netflix

Director: David Dobkin

Writers: Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele

Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, and Demi Lovato

If you think Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is just another “dumb Will Ferrell comedy,” think again. One of 2020’s most pleasant surprises, this musical comedy is surprisingly sweet and genuinely emotional – don’t be surprised if you find yourself welling up with tears by the end. The story follows a pair of lifelong friends and musicians from Iceland who are unexpectedly thrust into the Eurovision Song Contest, which tests their talents and their relationship to one another. Ferrell is hilarious as always, but it’s Rachel McAdams who steals the show here and proves yet again she’s one of the best comedic talents working right now. Oh and the songs? They’re spectacular. – Adam Chitwood

Da 5 Bloods

by David Lee/Netflix © 2020

Director: Spike Lee

Writers: Spike Lee, Kevin Wilmott, Danny Bilson, and Paul De Meo

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Jonathan Majors, and Chadwick Boseman

For his follow-up film after winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for BlacKkKlansman, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee decided to tackle the Vietnam War with 5 Bloods. The story is fairly straightforward, but the film is anything but. It follows four Vietnam War veterans who travel back to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen squad leader—as well as a pile of gold they left behind. But they soon find that the wounds they carry run deep, and Lee uses the film to examine issues of family, race, and American Exceptionalism in striking, graphic ways. It’s absolutely thrilling and Delroy Lindo gives a genuinely Oscar-worthy lead performance. – Adam Chitwood

Stardust

via Paramount Pictures

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman

Cast: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfieffer, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Ian McKellan, Ben Barnes, Henry Cavill, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett, Mark Strong, Ricky Gervais

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name,  is a whimsical, magical adventure through a magical land where stars crash to earth in human form, space pirates navigate the air, and the ghosts of the monarchy are entertained by fratricide. Long before he was Daredevil Charlie Cox charmed as Tristan Thorn, a young man who journeys to a magical land to capture a fallen star (Claire Danes) and finds adventure and romance lying beyond the wall he was told to never cross. Stardust is playful and fun to boot, with a vibrant performance from Michelle Pfieffer as a badass witch on the quest for immortality. All in all, Stardust has everything you want from a fantasy adventure, from wild imagination to sweeping romance to Robert De Niro as a space pirate. — Haleigh Foutch

Uncut Gems

via A24

Directors: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie

Writers: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, and Ronald Bronstein

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, and Eric Bogosian

The must-see thriller Gems contains quite possibly the best performance of Adam Sandler’s career. He plays a Jewish jeweler and gambling addict in New York City’s Diamond District who much track down an expensive gem he purchased in order to pay off his debts. The film chronicles his journey pretty much minute-by-minute, with directors Josh Safdie and Benny Safide maintaining a masterful sense of tension throughout. Seriously, from pretty much the first scene to the last this is a nail-biting thriller that will have your stomach in knots but your brain riveted. You’ve been warned. – Adam Chitwood

The Social Network

via Sony Pictures

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara, and Rashida Jones

Social Network is a masterpiece. It also happens to be one of the most rewatchable movies ever made. Rarely has a director and screenwriter pairing been so better matched, with David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin elevating each other’s best instincts and dampening each other’s worst. This cool, incisive drama is far more than a “Facebook” movie, as it uses the dramatic “origin story” of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg to tell a much larger story about what happens when the people running the world’s largest companies are barely out of college. There’s an almost mythic quality to the rise and fall of Zuckerberg here—the “was it worth it in the end?” philosophical questions. But this movie also just absolutely slaps/rules/slays so hard. The Oscar-winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is an all-timer, the performances are phenomenal, the script is perfect, and the direction is absolutely masterful. Watch this movie! – Adam Chitwood

Mud

via Roadside Attractions

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Jacob Lofland, and Reese Witherspoon

One of the most underrated movies of the past decade is surely Jeff Nichols’ soulful Southern epic . The original drama is told from the POV of a young teenaged boy played by Tye Sheridan who, along with his friend, stumbles upon a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on an island in the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Their chance meeting sets in motion a series of events that will force the young boy to grow up faster than he had planned, but also may potentially carve a way towards redemption for the titular Mud. The film came out around the time of the “McConaissance” and while Wolf of Wall Street and Magic Mike are flashier movies, Mud is great and not to be missed.

Total Recall

via TriStar Pictures

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Ronal Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, and Gary Goldman

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox

If you’re in the mood for a great throwback 80s/90s sci-fi actioner, you cannot possibly go wrong with Recall. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of espionage involving a colony on Mars. It’s crazy and weird and funny and thrilling, and Schwarzenegger is perfectly cast. Get your ass to Mars! – Adam Chitwood

The Florida Project

via A24

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, and Caleb Landry Jones

Florida Project is brilliant and human and it will absolutely break your heart. The film follows a six-year-old girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, just around the corner from DisneyWorld. In Moonee’s eyes, her days are filled with adventure as she makes the best out of living week-to-week in a motel with her single mother. But through the eyes of Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel’s manager, we see the abject poverty surrounding its tenants, and the loops they continue getting stuck in without any promise of upward mobility. Like Boyhood this story feels at once individualistic and universal, and Sean Baker’s docudrama-like filmmaking makes the events feel all too real. This is an essential watch. – Adam Chitwood

The Guest

via Picturehouse

Director: Adam Wingard

Writer: Simon Barrett

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Ethan Embry, and Lance Reddick

If you thought You’re Next was a breath of fresh air to the horror genre, might I suggest that film’s director/writer combo’s follow-up, a twist on the action-thriller genre called Guest. One part Terminator and one part classic John Carpenter, the film stars Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens as a creepy, potentially sinister war veteran who shows up unexpectedly at the home of one of his fellow soldiers, who died in battle. The family can’t decide if the titular guest’s intentions are good, bad, or a little bit of a both, but as far as the audience is concerned, this is a wildly entertaining riff on classic tropes, with a cheeky finale that’ll leave you smiling. So if you’re in the mood for something thrilling, a little scary, and a lot of fun, look no further. – Adam Chitwood

Good Time

via A24

Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie

Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benny Safdie, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress

Are you looking for an atypical action flick? While Time, a 9000-mile-a-minute character study/thriller from idiosyncratic directors the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems) may not have many typical action set pieces like shoot-outs or car chases, Good Time operates at a fast-paced clip that bests the pace of many contemporary, more traditionally explicit “action films.” And when Robert Pattinson (delivering career-best work) runs and climbs and claws his way through the underworld streets of New York City to try and bust his brother (co-director Benny Safdie) out of jail after a robbery gone awry, your heart will nearly burst out of its rib cage it’s beating so fast. From its grimy, shot-on-film aesthetics,  its pulsating electro-influenced soundtrack, and its slow-burn realization that our protagonist is more of a monster than we thought imaginable (Pattinson’s scene with Barkhad Abdi is nigh on unbearable), Good Time is like no other movie out there. An indie action classic for the ages. – Greg Smith

Crip Camp

via Netflix

Directors: Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht

The first Netflix documentary to hail from executive producers Michelle and Barack Obama was the Oscar-winning American Factory, and their second effort Camp is just as great if not better. The film shines a light on the individuals who spent most of their adult lives fighting for basic human rights, with many having attended a camp for disabled tends called Camp Jened in the 1970s. Incredible archival footage from this camp opens the film, but we then follow the various people we’ve met as they spend the next few decades embroiled in activism to pass legislation to make the world accessible for those with disabilities. It’s a fight that never should have had to be fought, and it’s both inspiring and infuriating to see how tirelessly these individuals had to push and push and push to affect even the tiniest bit of change. – Adam Chitwood

Steve Jobs

via Universal Pictures

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Jeff Daniels

One of the most underrated films of the 2010s, Jobs is not the movie you think it is. Aaron Sorkin has crafted the anti-biopic—the encapsulation of a man’s life without actually showing the highlights of his life. The film is structured in three acts that play out in real time, focusing on three major Apple events. The first is the launch of the Macintosh computer, the second is the launch of NeXT, and the third is the launch of the iMac. Each act is like a mini-play, but the backstage goings-on reveal so much about Steve Jobs the man through Michael Fassbender’s phenomenal performance. It’s a thrillingly inventive way to make a “biopic,” and sadly many missed this one when it hit theaters. Entertaining, funny, and ultimately insightful, Steve Jobs is an underrated gem. – Adam Chitwood

Marriage Story

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta

Fair warning: Story will wreck you. But it’s also not just one of the best films of 2019, it’s the best film Noah Baumbach has ever made. The story chronicles the process of divorce from separation to finalization, with Adam Driver playing the successful theater director husband and Scarlett Johansson playing the successful actress wife. Complicating matters is the fact that the couple shares a child, but the brilliance of Baumbach’s film is that it tells the story from both points of view, so no matter which side you fall on in the end, you have deep empathy for both individuals. Driver and Johansson give career-best performances as Baumbach writes full-bodied, complex individuals—you know, like actual human beings. And with regards to the subject matter, Baumbach vividly showcases how the voices of the two individuals—and the love they previously shared—get lost in the actual process of divorcing. Heartbreaking and deeply human, Marriage Story is not to be missed. – Adam Chitwood

A Ghost Story

by Bret Curry, courtesy of A24

Director/Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Right off the bat we’ll say that Ghost Story is not for everyone, but if you’re into the idea of an indie about the existentialism of life as told via ghost story, this might be for you. This 2017 drama finds Casey Affleck playing a man who dies but then comes back to haunt his wife (Rooney Mara) and her house. There are no big special effects, it’s simply Affleck wearing a white sheet and moping around. But the construction of the film, and the incredible score, drive home the largess of existence and the sorrow of loss. This one’s certainly unique. – Adam Chitwood

The Irishman

via Netflix

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci

Don’t be daunted by the 3.5-hour runtime on Irishman. Martin Scorsese’s epic about the life of Teamster and hitman Frank Sheeran flies by as it morphs from entertaining mob story to a powerful mediation on life, age, and regret. Sheeran (Robert De Niro) tells us his life story of being friends with mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and how these friendships converged into deadly consequences with Frank stuck in the middle. The movie discards the glamour of films like Goodfellas and Casino and instead focuses on the slow decay of a man who has always seen himself as a good soldier when really all he has to offer is violence and selfishness. Far from “just another mob movie” from Scorsese, The Irishman is a powerful look at your twilight years and reflecting on the choices you’ve made in life. It’s among Scorsese’s best. – Matt Goldberg

Dolemite Is My Name

via Netflix

Director: Craig Brewer

Writers: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, and Titus Burgess

Not only does the Netflix original comedy film Is My Name give us the best Eddie Murphy performance in years, it’s also just a tremendously entertaining movie about creative expression. The movie is based on the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who aimed to bring his hit standup character “Dolemite” to the masses by writing, producing, and starring in an extremely low-budget film. Not unlike Bowfinger, this movie is a hilarious behind-the-scenes story of one man’s creative passion coming to life against all odds. Murphy is explosive, Da’Vine Joy Randolph gives the definition of a breakthrough performance, and Wesley Snipes goes full To Wong Fu in an outrageous turn as the director of the Dolemite movie. This is an extremely entertaining comedy that is also incredibly inspiring. – Adam Chitwood

Pan’s Labyrinth

via Picturehouse/Warner Bros Pictures

Director/Writer: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo, and Doug Jones

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro made waves with his 2001 Spanish-language drama The Devil’s Backbone and followed that up with studio films where he explored ideas of monstrosity—Blade II and Hellboy. But after those more commercial plays, del Toro returned to his roots for his 2006 masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. The story takes place five years after the Spanish Civil War in 1944 Spain and revolves around a young girl named Ofelia, whose stepfather is hunting down the Spanish Maquis who fight against the Francoist regime and whose pregnant mother is growing increasingly ill. Ofelia loses herself in a mythical world inhabited by creatures that are gorgeously alluring yet incredibly dangerous. Del Toro’s mix of fantasy, drama, and tragedy is magnificent, and the film was not only nominated for Best Foreign Language Film but also Best Original Screenplay. Its only wins, however, were for cinematography, art direction, and makeup. It lost Best Foreign Language Film to the German drama The Lives of Others. – Adam Chitwood

Miss Americana

via Netflix

Director: Lana Wilson

The Taylor Swift Netflix documentary Americana is far from your typical music doc. It isn’t even really all that focused on Swift’s music so much as it is on Swift as a person. More specifically, it’s a film about Swift’s long journey to figuring out how not to care what people think about her, and how that manifests in her feminist awakening and decision to publicly express her political opinion—which we see occur in real-time. Some will ding the film for being too manicured, and in truth it’s impossible to tell just how heavy a hand Swift had in the tailoring of the documentary re: her self-image. But the film’s true moments of insight are hard to ignore, and it’s fascinating to watch Swift come to terms with who she is as a human being while also being one of the most famous people on the planet. – Adam Chitwood

There Will Be Blood

via Paramount Pictures

Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. Connor

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best filmmakers in history and Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best actors in history, and the duo’s first ever collaboration resulted in one of the best films ever made. Will Be Blood is a drama set at the turn of the 20th century that follows a ruthless oilman named Daniel Plainview, played by Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning performance. The film chronicles Daniel’s unending thirst for power at the sake of everything—including his young son H.W. and a neighborly preacher played by Paul Dano. This is a thematically rich, deep character-driven drama so you kind of have to be in the right mood for it. But if you are, then you’re in for a treat. – Adam Chitwood

A Single Man

via TWC

Director: Tom Ford

Writers: Tom Ford and David Scearce

Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicolas Hoult, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin

Tom Ford is an icon of the fashion world, known for his impeccable eye and chic style, so it should come as no surprise that his directorial debut is an absolutely gorgeous and elegant piece of cinema with no spared attention to aesthetic detail. Both uplifting and incredibly depressing,  Single Man stars Colin Firth as a quiet middle-aged professor mourning the death of his partner when he decides to take his own life in the coming night, but edges towards his will to live when he reconnects with an old friend (Julianne Moore) and sparks up a romance with one of his students (Nicolas Hoult). Lush and emotionally dense, A Single Man packs in some powerhouse performances and announced Ford as filmmaker capable of translating his artistic eye onto the big screen. — Haleigh Foutch

The Invitation

via Drafthouse Films

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, and John Carroll Lynch 

If you’re in the mood for a horror movie that will really mess you up, but not in a super graphic way, then Invitation is the film for you. The story begins simple enough: a man (Logan Marshall-Green) brings his girlfriend to a dinner party arranged by his ex-wife, which reunites a group of old friends. But soon things turn a bit… strange when the host (Tammy Blanchard) starts espousing about a group she and her new beau (Haunting of Hill House’s Michiel Huisman) have joined. This is a contained horror film that plays heavily on psychological and emotional trauma as opposed to jump scares or blood spurts, and it’s all the better for it. Director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) shows a masterful handle on tone and tension, and the story will keep you guessing right up until the jaw-dropping final shot. – Adam Chitwood

Let It Snow

via Netflix

Director: Luke Snellin

Writers: Laura Solon, Victoria Strouse, and Kay Cannon

Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Liv Hewson, Odeya Rush, Jacob Batalon, Kiernan Shipka, Joan Cusack

If you’re in the mood for some seasonal romance, Netflix delivered a bit of a Love Actually for the teen set with  It Snow, a breezy holiday rom-com that finds a series of overlapping love stories on one fateful Christmas-season snow day. It’s a sweet film from top-to-tail, as interested in the dramas of teen friendship and domestic struggles as it the blossoming romances, and it’s filled with delightful performances from a knockout cast of young up-and-comers. A lot of the Netflix Christmas romances follow in the Hallmark channel vein, and absolutely no judgment if that’s your preferred thing, but for those who want an old-fashioned feel-good holiday romance, Let It Snow is just the ticket.– Haleigh Foutch

Moonlight

via A24

Director: Barry Jenkins

Writers: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harries, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, and Andre Holland

The 2017 winner of the Best Picture Oscar, is a stunning cinematic achievement that is equal parts coming-of-age story and coming-out story. A triptych in structure, the film is told in three sections each focusing on a different stage of the life of a young black man named Chiron. We see how the events of his life shaped him into the man he became, from his drug-addicted mother to his benevolent but criminal father figure to his first experiences coming to terms with his sexuality. Barry Jenkins’ direction is masterful and the performances astound, as you feel the three different actors who play Chiron all inhabit the same character—no easy feat. This is a phenomenal achievement from start to finish, and an incredibly moving story that is ultimately universal in nature: how do the experiences of our lives shape us into the adults we become? In addition to Best Picture, the film also won the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. – Adam Chitwood

Snowpiercer

via CJ Entertainment/Radius

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writer: Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Olivia Spencer, Ed Harris, Song Kang Ho

Bong Joon Ho’s (The Host) first English language film is a strange little beast. Set in an Ice Age post-apocalypse set off by failed climate control experiment, the entire film takes place within the confines of an ever-running global train that is home to the few survivors. A none too subtle spin on class warfare,  follows the desperate inhabitants of the lower-class posterior of the train, where they survive on disgusting gelatinous nutrition bars (and in truly dire times, something much worse), as they stage a violent coup against the privileged, indulgent elite at the front of the train. Chris Evans turns his Captain America charisma and command to its darkest incarnation as Curtis, the man at the forefront of the rebellion who leads the charge to take over the engine room. Along the way, Snowpiercer travels through the caste system of the train cars, each new carriage a bizarre and fully-rendered habitat of its own, and paints a microcosmic picture of a warped society entirely contained on a single train. It also packs in some visceral combat scenes and an all-timer performance from Tilda Swinton, and is all but guaranteed to become a cult classic. – Haleigh Foutch

About Time

via Universal Pictures

Director/Writer: Richard Curtis

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, and Margot Robbie

The 2013 film Time is not just an absolute gem of a romantic comedy, it’s also one of the best time travel movies ever made. Oh yeah, and it’s a total tearjerker. Written and directed by Love, Actually filmmaker Richard Curtis, the film stars Domhnall Gleeson as a young man who learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family have the ability to time travel. This comes in handy when he misses his chance with a charismatic American girl (Rachel McAdams) and goes back to the night they first met to start their relationship off right. But what begins as a delightful, grounded, and romantic romp soon turns emotional, as About Time slowly reveals itself to be a gut-wrenching father-son story at heart. – Adam Chitwood

Roma

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, and Marco Graf

is a masterpiece. Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, who won an Oscar for Gravity and has pushed the boundaries of cinema with films like Children of Men and even Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, digs deep into his soul for this new drama, which recreates his childhood as told through the eyes of a domestic worker named Cleo. As this middle class family living in 1970s Mexico City falls apart, Cuarón’s unique cinematography positions the viewer as an objective observer. That role becomes more and more heartbreaking as you, the viewer, become more emotionally invested in the lives of these individuals. Effective on any sized screen, ROMA is Netflix’s best original film to date. – Adam Chitwood

High Flying Bird

via Netflix

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Tarell Alvin McCraney

Cast: Andre Holland, Zazie Beets, Melvin Gregg, Sonja Sohn, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan, and Bill Duke

What do you get when you combine Oscar-winning Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney with genius filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and an A-list cast? A must-see movie. Flying Bird is a thrilling, delightful drama set in the world of sports that takes place over the course of one 48-hour period as a sports agent (Holland) attempts to find a way to end a basketball lockout that has himself (and many players) hurting for cash. Soderbergh—whose talents range from the glitz and glam of Ocean’s Eleven to the challenging drug trafficking ensemble Traffic—shot the entire movie on an iPhone, which adds another layer of urgency and intimacy to the proceedings. It’s mostly scenes of people talking in rooms, but the writing and performances are so good you’ll be glued to your screen for the entire runtime (which is a brisk 90 minutes). If you’re in the mood for something exciting, cerebral, and refreshing, give this one a go. – Adam Chitwood

Velvet Buzzsaw

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich

The best way to approach Dan Gilroy’s crazy Buzzsaw is to see it as a slasher film that takes place in the art world. Instead of a masked madman rampaging through a summer camp full of horny teenagers, it’s disturbing art rampaging through the art scene full of greedy profiteers. The plot centers on a group of art dealers who stumble upon the work of a deceased, criminally insane artist and find that his art could be highly profitable. However, proximity to the art causes other art to come alive and murder those who would seek to make money off art rather than engage with it. Gilroy’s targets a very clear, but it never feels like he’s preaching at the audience because Velvet Buzzsaw is so much fun. It’s a movie with art and commerce on its mind, but never at the expense of giving the audience a good time. – Matt Goldberg

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

via Python Pictures

Directed by: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

Written by: Monty Python

Cast: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam

The 1975 film Python and the Holy Grail is not just one of the best comedies ever made, it’s one of the best films ever made full-stop. British comedy troupe Monty Python chronicle King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail in hilariously silly fashion, throwing in some creatively inspired imagery and swell production value for good measure. This was Monty Python’s second feature ever after gaining popularity for their TV show, but unlike their first film And Now for Something Completely Different, Holy Grail is one continuous narrative, not a string of sketches. While senses of humor and certainly the comedy genre as a whole have changed in the ensuing four decades, Holy Grail remains a landmark achievement and, above all, an incredibly funny movie all these years later. – Adam Chitwood

Knock Down the House

via Netflix

Director: Rachel Lears

While some may be quick to dismiss this documentary because its main figure is liberal politician Alexandra Ocasio-CortezRachel Lears’ film isn’t really concerned with the right-left divide. Instead, it’s about insurgent, grassroots politicians fighting the entrenched establishment power. Although Ocasio-Cortez’ story over-arches the whole film, Lears also takes time to follow other female politicians who are seeking to win their primary battles. The film is at its best when it shows the gritty, unglamorous work of campaigning and building a movement. If you’re fed up with business-as-usual politicians who have forgotten their constituents,  Down the House provides an inspiring rally cry. – Matt Goldberg

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

via Netflix

Directors/Writers: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown, Jefferson Mays, Stephen Root, and Willie Watson

Ballad of Buster Scruggs may not go down as an all-time great Coen Brothers movie, but it helps to crystalize their themes on death and morality as clearly as some of their best works. The anthology movie contains six stories of varying tone from the riotous “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” to the deeply melancholy “Meal Ticket”, but they all have something do with death, with the western genre used as a cohesive baseline. While folks will argue over which shorts are the best (I personally haven’t been able to shake “The Gal Who Got Rattled”), even the weakest Coens is better than the best work of other filmmakers. Even if you’re not a Coen Brothers die-hard, there’s still plenty to enjoy and ponder in their Netflix movie. – Matt Goldberg

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

via Netflix

Director: Susan Johnson

Writer: Sofia Alvarez

Cast: Lana Condor, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Noah Centineo, Israel Broussard, and John Corbett 

If you’re looking for a fun, sweet, YA romance to brighten your day, you won’t do much better on Netflix than  All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Based off the novel by Jenny Han, the story follows Lara Jean (Lana Condor), a teenager whose worst nightmares are realized when five letters she wrote to her secret crushes are sent out without her knowledge. When she’s confronted by her old crush Peter (Noah Centineo), she’s afraid it could get in the way of her current crush Josh (Israel Broussard), so Lara Jean and Peter resolve to fake a relationship so they can get with who they really want to be with. Naturally, pretending to be together starts to create real feelings between the two. The film is a joy from start to finish, letting you relive a time when who “liked” you was the most important thing in the world, but without any of the trauma high school entails. – Matt Goldberg

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

via Universal Pictures

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Schwartzman.

Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s outstanding comic didn’t find much of an audience upon its release, but over the years it has grown into a cult classic. The movie follows Scott Pilgrim (Cera), a sweet if slightly selfish and misguided young man who falls for delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Winstead). He can only continue to date her if he defeats her seven evil exes. Scott’s comfortable with the video game framework, but the film is really about two people discovering they have to get over their own baggage if they’re going to find new love. Wright decorates the whole picture with video game tropes and fun little nods, but never loses sight of the core romantic story.  Pilgrim vs. the World is funny, effervescent, and only gets better on repeat viewings. – Matt Goldberg

Private Life

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Tamara Jenkins

Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Desmin Borges, and Denis O’Hare

Tamara Jenkins’ new movie, Life, is a deft balancing act that plunges viewers into the frustration, anxiety, and hardship of a couple struggling to conceive, and yet it never loses sight of the humanity and even moments of odd comedy in their struggle. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play Rachel and Richard Biegler, a couple in their late 40s who are desperately trying to get pregnant, but despite putting themselves through the fertility grinder, are no closer to having a child. When they learn that their only chance is an egg donor, they decide they want it to be someone they know, and land upon their wayward niece (not blood-related) Sadie (Kayli Carter), a well-meaning if slightly flighty young woman in her mid-20s to be their donor. When she agrees, it ends up creating new, unforeseen complications, but never anything so outlandish that it breaks the movie’s powerful credibility.

Private Life is remarkable for a multitude of reasons, but it demands to be seen for Hahn’s remarkable performance. She has to play so many different levels and yet it’s not simply a case of “most acting” but fine-tuning her outrage and her heartache based on the scene. Sometimes she gets to lash out, but other times she has to bury her pain so that it doesn’t make other people uncomfortable. It’s easily one of the best performances of 2018. – Matt Goldberg

22 July

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr, Jonas Strand Gravli, Ola G. Furuseth, and Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen

In 2011, a far-right terrorist exploded a bomb at a government office in Norway and then made his way to a youth summer camp on an island, where he opened fire and killed 77 people in total. Bourne and United 93 filmmaker Paul Greengrass captures this terrorist attack in excruciating detail in the opening half hour of Chitwood

Set It Up

via Netflix

Director: Claire Scanlon

Writer: Katie Silberman

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, and Taye Diggs

If you’re looking for a charming romantic comedy, but don’t want to rewatch something from a previous decade for the umpteenth time, you should definitely give Claire Scanlon’s charming  It Up a look. The plot follows two beleaguered assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who decided to set up their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, respectively) in order to just get some precious free time away from their demanding jobs. However, with all their scheming, they start to fall for each other. You can see the romcom beats coming from a mile away, but they’re done so well and so effectively that you won’t mind. Plus, the film sizzles thanks to the outstanding performances from the dazzling Deutch and Powell, who should be the streaming generation’s Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. – Matt Goldberg

The Ritual

via Netflix

Director: David Bruckner

Writer: Joe Barton

Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Horror movies are always a gamble–some are great, and deliver more than expected, while others simply tread well-worn territory. Ritual falls into the former category, as director David Bruckner takes a story about male friendships and growing older (and further apart) and packages it into a terrifying, twisty “monster in the woods” horror film. The film revolves around four friends who go on a hiking trip in Sweden to honor their friend Rob, who was killed six months earlier during a convenience store robbery. But when they take a shortcut through some woods (terrible idea), they find themselves haunted by a malevolent creature. The performances really anchor this thing as a character-rich piece, specifically from lead Rafe Spall, and the creature design itself is absolutely unique (and frightening). The final result is a horror movie that’s downright scary, surprising, and honestly quite thoughtful. It’s the whole package. – Adam Chitwood

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

via Netflix

Directed by: David Wain

Written by: John Aboud and Michael Colton

Cast: Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, Martin Mull, Emmy Rossum, Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, Matt Walsh, Neil Casey, Matt Lucas, Natasha Lyonne, Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Paul Scheer, and Jon Daly

If you’re a comedy nerd, Futile and Stupid Gesture is a must-watch. The Netflix original film chronicles the origins of National Lampoon magazine through the eyes of co-founder Doug Kenney (Will Forte), a hilarious free spirit who would go on to co-write Animal House and Caddyshack before meeting an untimely end. Forte is the driving force of the film as it tracks the irreverent beginnings of National Lampoon, and the actor delivers a dynamic turn that is equal parts funny and sad. But Domhnall Gleeson nearly steals the show as his more dry partner Henry Beard, with cameos galore of folks playing famous actors from the time like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models filmmaker David Wain directs with a knowing eye, but takes the drama inherent in Kenney’s tragedy seriously. – Adam Chitwood

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, and Emma Thompson

Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) isn’t Noah Baumbach’s first story about a dysfunctional family, but it’s his best one yet. The story follows the Meyerowitz family, specifically sons Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller) and their strained relationship with their egotistical father Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a retired art professor whose work as a sculptor never brought him the acclaim or recognition he felt he deserved.

The film is at turns deeply funny and incredibly heartbreaking as we see how Harold has emotionally damaged his sons in different ways. With Danny, he’s always harping on how great Matthew is while never acknowledging how much Danny does as a son and as a father, and with Matthew, he’s always distracted or demanding credit for making more of a commitment than he did with Danny. It’s insightful, smart, and features outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Sandler and Stiller, who turn in some of their best work while never leaving behind their comic gifts. Credit is also due to Hoffman who, at 80 years old, is still delivering magnificent performances that make you laugh and seethe in equal measure. – Matt Goldberg

Mudbound

via Netflix

Directed by: Dee Rees

Written by: Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke, and Jonathan Banks

One of the best films of 2017, Dee Rees’ southern epic is a sprawling, rapturous piece that looks at the lives of two families, one black and one white, in the 1940s. Although a lesser film would have only looked at one of these families or only one perspective, brilliantly examines the hardscrabble life of a white family who owns the land, the black family who must work the land, and the conflicts and kinships that arise from its various members. Aside from the masterful craftsmanship and outstanding performances, Mudbound is a brilliant meditation on race and power that transcends its time and place. While the rural Mississippi setting gives the film its flavor, the inequality and power dynamic feels painfully relevant without ever coming off as preachy or obvious. It’s an absolutely masterpiece, and while it may not be a Netflix film that’s perfect for relaxing, it’s one you’ll be grateful you experienced. – Matt Goldberg

Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids

via Netflix

Director: Jonathan Demme

One might think a concert documentary on Netflix couldn’t be that exciting, and one would be wrong.  Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids is an absolute blast from start to finish, as filmmaker Jonathan Demme captures the final two performances of Justin Timberlake‘s 20/20 Experience tour. It’s abundantly clear that Timberlake is a consummate entertainer—Demme’s camera marvels at the performer’s showmanship, and the effect is downright alluring. He also takes time to really showcase the musicians and dancers performing alongside Timberlake, which brings an air of family to the proceedings. Really it’s just an all-around great time. Throw it on during a party or small get-together, or just sit down watch Timberlake do his thing. – Adam Chitwood

Long Shot

via Netflix

Director: Jacob LaMendola

The less you know about Jacob LaMendola’s 40-minute documentary  Shot the better because its twists and turns are absolutely shocking even if its larger point should be burned into viewers memories by now. Overall, the documentary focuses on Juan Catalan, who was accused of a murder he didn’t commit and the lengths he had to go to in order to prove his innocence. While our justice system likes to tout that the accused are “innocent until proven guilty,” Long Shot shows in its brief runtime that the truth is just the opposite. Despite the flimsy evidence against Catalan, he had to be extraordinarily lucky to prove his innocence and that we have a system that incentivizes detectives and prosecutors simply to close cases rather than find justice. The brilliant thing about Long Shot is that it never has to come right out and say it. The case speaks volumes on its own. – Matt Goldberg

Beasts of No Nation

via Netflix

Director/Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Kurt Egyiawan, Jude Akuwudike, Emmanuel “King Kong” Nii, and Adom Quaye

Netflix’s first major foray into original film territory was an ambitious awards play, as the streaming service acquired writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s passion project of No Nation after the film had been completed. The drama chronicles the journey of a young boy in an unnamed West African country who becomes a child soldier, and while the subject matter should tell you that this isn’t necessarily a “cheery” watch, it’s a tremendous and incredibly powerful piece of filmmaking. Young Abraham Attah is phenomenal as the young Agu, while Idris Elba delivers a terrifying performance as the charismatic leader Commandant. Fukunaga serves as his own cinematographer to hauntingly beautiful results, and the film culminates in a tough and thought-provoking conclusion. It’s one of the best films of 2015 that went criminally underseen, but it’s a terrific film that deserves to be experienced. – Adam Chitwood

Need More Recommendations?

Be sure to keep checking back as we’ll be continuing to update our recommendations for the must-see titles currently playing on Netflix each week. Happy viewing!

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