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The 100 best movies now on Netflix

So many options, but which to pick? Consult our ranked list of the very best that Netflix has to offer

By Time Out contributors |

As convenient as Netflix is, it’s created an unexpected problem: those glazed eyes at having too much choice. (Anyone who remembers video stores knows this feeling well.) How do you pick from thousands of titles and still not feel like a sucker after spending 10 excruciating minutes on a whiff-and-a-miss? Allow us to help. We’ve gone through every genre—from action, romantic comedy and animation to horror and documentaries—and culled the classics. Then—why not?—we ranked them, because that’s what we like do here. Start the countdown; thank us later.


Movies, Action and adventure

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

Director: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau

Before he directed the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, Zhang turned his eye to martial arts with this tale of a blind dancer thought to be a deadly rebel assassin. Big screen or small, it’s worth seeing.

Watch if you liked: Hero


Goodbye First Love (2011)

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

Cast: Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Håvard Brekke

Hansen-Løve’s third feature appears at first to be a simple romance between French teenagers Camille (Lola Créton) and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky). But after their impassioned relationship dissolves, the perspective shifts exclusively to Camille, who we then follow over an emotionally tumultuous decade. This is how you portray adolescence onscreen.

Watch if you liked: Before Sunrise

Movies, Drama

Tabu (2012)

Director: Miguel Gomes

Cast: Telmo Churro, Miguel Gomes, Hortêncílio Aquina

Gomes’s third feature is a surrealist’s delight: Split across 1960s Africa and present-day Lisbon, this monochromatic dream is a slippery and crazy-beautiful story of time, passion and crocodiles.

Watch if you liked: Ida


Holy Motors (2012)

Director: Leos Carax

Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes

The reclusive director’s first feature in 13 years finds him putting Denis Levant through a series of movie-mad misadventures. It’s a love letter to the seventh art, and Exhibit A for making the case that enfants terribles don’t get older—they just get weirder.

Watch if you liked: Under the Skin

Movies, Action and adventure

Maidentrip (2013)

Director: Jillian Schlesinger


At age 14, Laura Dekker became one of the youngest people ever to sail around the world. This is her story and it’s beautifully told in Schlesinger’s debut documentary.

Watch if you liked: All Is Lost

Movies, Drama

Something in the Air (2012)

Director: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Clément Métayer, André Marcon, Lola Créton

The year is 1971, the city is Paris, and the kids—hard-core leftist students who didn’t get the memo that May ’68 is, like, so three years ago—are in the streets. This may be the consummate Assayas movie, distilling a career’s worth of themes into one aching portrait of the political and the personal.

Watch if you liked: Almost Famous

Movies, Animation

It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Director: Don Hertzfeldt

Cast: Don Hertzfeldt

The cult animator compiles a number of his short works, including the “Bill” trilogy, into one feature-length roundelay. Lovers of wacky-yet-disturbing tons, assemble.

Watch if you liked: Spirited Away


Side Effects (15) 2013

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law

Soderbergh’s final theatrical film is a doozy: a twisty psychological thriller that only pretends to be about the pharmaceutical industry until it feels comfortable luxuriating in seedier pleasures. Take one of these and call us in the morning.

Watch if you liked: Body Double

Movies, Thriller

A Simple Plan (1998)

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda

Author-screenwriter Scott Smith slightly defangs his own novel for the screen, transforming what had been a disturbing tale of manic self-justification into a rehash of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (not exactly a bad film). But Billy Bob Thornton is stunning as dim bulb Jacob.

Watch if you liked: Fargo


Movies, Horror

Ravenous (1999)

Director: Antonia Bird

Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette

Guy Pearce plays a straight-arrow army captain who stumbles upon a group of cannibals during the Mexican-American War. Literally gut-wrenching, this buried treasure by the late Antonia Bird is one of the best (and least revolting) cannibal flicks ever made.

Watch if you liked: Dawn of the Dead

Movies, Drama

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki

The reigning humanist of Japanese cinema, Kore-eda is the only guy we’d trust to make a movie about adorable kids being switched at birth (and the legal logistics that eventually ensue) without getting all maudlin about it. It’ll make you cry, but Kore-eda earns every tear.

Watch if you liked: Kramer vs. Kramer


Bedevilled (2010)

Director: Jang Chul-soo

Cast: Seo Yeong-hie, Ji Seong-won, Hwang Min-ho

Imagine a cross between The Wicker Man and I Spit on Your Grave, and you’ll get Jang’s delicious revenge thriller-cum–social satire about a woman trapped on a patriarchal island. It’ll have all you men being extra nice to your wives afterward.

Watch if you liked: Ms. 45

Movies, Drama

Like Someone in Love (2012)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Cast: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Ryô Kase

Kiarostami goes to Japan for this grimly cold and clinical feature. It follows three Japanese people—a beleaguered call girl, an elderly professor who has employed her services and the prostitute’s obsessively jealous boyfriend—each of whom hides their inner distress beneath a fragile mask of politesse.

Watch if you liked: Certified Copy

Movies, Action and adventure

The Grandmaster (2013)

Director: Wong Kar-wai

Cast: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Jin Zhang

What’s this most exquisite of directors doing making a martial-arts flick? All props to Bruce Lee, King Hu and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but even at its most thrilling, the genre puts limitations on a subtle filmmaker. That said, Wong’s drama is absolutely gorgeous and a perfectly fine Netflix time-waster.

Watch if you liked: Kill Bill

Movies, Documentary

This Is Not a Film (2012)

Director: Jafar Panahi

Cast: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

Banned from directing and awaiting a prison sentence, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi holds court in this funny and indescribably moving documentary. One of the most vital and powerful films of a young decade.

Watch if you liked: Close-Up

Movies, Drama

Mauvais Sang (1986)

Director: Leos Carax

Cast: Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant

It’s easy to see Carax’s second feature as a warm-up for his third, The Lovers on the Bridge, as it features the same grandiose visuals, the same glamorously doomed characters and the same ludicrous narrative twists. But the chemistry here is off the charts, and nobody dances to David Bowie quite like Denis Lavant.

Watch if you liked: Frances Ha

Movies, Drama

Alps (2011)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Stavros Psyllakis, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris

The latest from Lanthimos (Dogtooth) is about a four-member secret society that hires itself out to bereaved families as stand-ins for deceased relatives. It’s deadpan-absurd from moment to moment, puzzling and provocative in toto.

Watch if you liked: Fight Club

Movies, Drama


Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel


This doc from the makers of festival favorites Sweetgrass and Foreign Parts is one senses-working-overtime experience, taking an immersive look at life on a commercial fishing trawler.

Watch if you liked: Manakamana


Sleepless Night (2011)

Director: Frédéric Jardin

Cast: Tomer Sisley, Serge Riaboukine, Julien Boisselier

Imagine Die Hard in a trashy French nightclub—then imagine it being even more awesome than that sounds in every way—and you’ll have the right idea.

Watch if you liked: Die Hard


Movies, Thriller

Oldboy (2003)

Director: Park Chan-wook

Cast: Choi Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong

Park’s superviolent, Cannes-coronated revenge saga has more than earned its modern-classic status, and deservedly turned actor Choi Min-sik into an star. If you get queasy seeing folks eat live squids or watching a ten-minute hammer fight, however, you may want to avoid it.

Watch if you liked: The Raid: Redemption


Witness for the Prosecution

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton

Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power sink their formidable teeth into Agatha Christie’s classic courtroom mystery—the definition of a prestige movie at the height of the studio system.

Watch if you liked: The Man Who Knew Too Much

Movies, Drama

Days Of Being Wild (1990)

Director: Wong Kai-wai

Cast: Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau

One oedipal complex, two great Cheungs—Leslie and Maggie—and a slow-boiling ménage à trois color this story of an aloof, indecisive man and the women who love him. It’s paced pretty leisurely for a film with the word wild in the title, but Wong’s breezy, brooding style really begins to take shape here.

Watch if you liked: In the Mood for Love


The Best of Youth (2003)

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca

A few years ahead of that whole “TV is the new film” talk, this epic six-hour Italian melodrama was originally conceived as a two-part miniseries. But it doesn’t matter how long it is, or where you’re watching it—this multidecade saga about two brothers doing their best to survive the 20th century is as riveting as motion pictures get.

Watch if you liked: Dr. Zhivago

Movies, Drama

Panic Room

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker

Kristen Stewart’s first major role has her hiding in a secret room with mom Jodie Foster, while violent thieves raid their swanky apartment. Fincher’s done better, both before and since, but his style is untouchable.

Watch if you liked: Gone Girl

Movies, Drama

We Are the Best!

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne

A euphoric comedy set in 1982 about Stockholm girls on the cusp of adolescence who become snotty punks, the movie has the confidence of a director who’s survived some wild years himself. With his comeback, director Moodysson (Together) makes sweet, unholy music.

Watch if you liked: The Filth and the Fury

Movies, Science fiction

Strange Days (1995)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis

Bigelow’s ex, James Cameron, cowrote this ominous premillennial thriller. Ralph Fiennes is excellent as the virtual-reality-peddling lead, but it’s Angela Bassett who rules the roost as an ass-kicking limo driver.

Watch if you liked: The Hurt Locker

Movies, Fantasy

The Truman Show (1998)

Director: Peter Weir

Cast: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney

The film now seems deeply prophetic: Our hero (Jim Carrey) lives an innocuous suburban life, completely unaware that millions of TV viewers are tuning in to his every cough and complaint. All this is lacking, really, is a Kardashian.

Watch if you liked: Nightcrawler

Movies, Comedy

Amélie (2001)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus

Audrey Tatou had her star-making moment as a young woman intervening in the lives of lonely strangers. Depending on your tolerance for wide-eyed gamines and jaunty “French” accordions, this international hit will either charm you to pieces or make you want to methodically flay your skin in sections.

Watch if you liked: Breakfast at Tiffany’s


Movies, Drama

Laurence Anyways (2012)

Director: Xavier Dolan

Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Emmanuel Schwartz, Suzanne Clément

A Montreal couple enters some challenging times when one of them reveals his desire for gender reassignment. Nearly three hours of incredible music, images and performances ensues.

Watch if you liked: Transamerica

Movies, Drama

Somewhere (2012)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius

Or The Unbearable Lightness of Being Famous. Stephen Dorff plays a lonely movie star trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter (Elle Fanning) in Coppola’s moody, moving drama.

Watch if you liked: Paper Moon

Movies, Science fiction

Woman In The Moon

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch, Gustav von Wangenheim

Lang’s final silent film is one of his most memorable, the early special effects alone making it worth seeing for fans of such things. The story is, um, less than scientifically sound, but this trip to the moon is a charming epic all the same.

Watch if you liked: Interstellar

Movies, Action and adventure

The Usual Suspects

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri

Even if you already know the big twist, this one’s fun to return to, as a showcase for craft, subtle audience distraction and a killer performance by Kevin Spacey (before he became a punchline).

Watch if you liked: Snowpiercer

Movies, Comedy

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Adam Sandler is uncharacteristically great as a short-tempered toilet-plunger manufacturer in Anderson’s deranged and wonderfully musical fantasia about the violence of falling in love. You’ll never hear Altman’s Popeye the same way again.

Watch if you liked: True Romance

Movies, Drama

Stranger by the Lake

Director: Alain Guiraudie

Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao

A remote meet-up spot for gay men looking for casual sex becomes the unlikely scene of a Hitchcockian thriller in this eerier, mordantly funny and deceptively complex murder-mystery.

Watch if you liked: Cruising (we know you’re out there!)

Movies, Comedy

Frances Ha (2012)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver

Gerwig (who also cowrote the screenplay) stars as an Ivy League grad who dreams of becoming a dancer, despite having two left feet in more ways than one.

Watch if you liked: Greenberg

Movies, Drama

Funny Games (1997)

Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch

This is the controversial movie that broke Haneke (Amour) in America; it may also break your spirit. An unflinching tale of a bourgeois couple and their son held hostage by two sadists, it’s less a sick joke than an intricately plotted assault on audiences gorged on bloodlust.

Watch if you liked: The Purge

Movies, Thriller

Thief (1981)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson

Mann’s first feature set the moody template for what was to come (including TV’s Miami Vice and his later triumph The Insider). This one stars James Caan in the title role, with Tuesday Weld and a surprisingly gritty Jim Belushi in support.

Watch if you liked: Drive

Movies, Drama

The Master

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams

Ponderous and demanding, Paul Thomas Anderson’s thinly veiled Scientology drama slows to a rattlesnake-swallowing-a-mouse lurch. The mouse is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an aberrant WWII sailor transitioning to a life of department-store fistfights and drunkenness. The rattlesnake is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a sci-fi writer who commands on sea and land.

Watch if you liked: Catch-22


Nymphomaniac: Volume I

Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin

Lars von Trier’s wild, sprawling latest is an orgy of the sublime and the ridiculous. It’s the story of the self-destructive sex life of a woman named Joe, seen in her teens and twenties (as played by dazzling newcomer Stacy Martin) and also as a middle-aged survivor (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Chaotic and not especially pretty, the film has the punkish, radical spirit of Von Trier’s The Idiots.

Watch if you liked: Breaking the Waves

Sabrina (1954)

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden

By Wilder’s standards, this is strictly second-rate, but that still makes it roughly 30 times more enjoyable than the Harrison Ford remake. Humphrey Bogart and William Holden star as brothers vying for Hepburn’s hand, and the action on screen is almost as fun as the action behind it.

Watch if you liked: God Help the Girl


Kill List (2011)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson

The film that cemented Ben Wheatley as one of the major players in modern horror, Kill List is the hilarious and ridiculously scary tale of two semiretired mercenaries who are asked to kill the wrong people. Nothing this twisted should be this much fun.

Watch if you liked: No Country for Old Men

Django Unchained (2012)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio

The director’s long-fantasized trek into Sergio Leone Country—by way of America’s racist South of the pre–Civil War era—is filled with the kind of wall-to-wall chat that marks QT’s best moments. How can he resist a horse named Fritz who neighs hello on cue? Even animals get in on the gab.

Watch if you liked: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Melancholia (2011)

Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland

Never a big fan of subtlety, Lars von Trier turns his heroine’s neuroses into the end of the world, resulting in an operatic apocalypse that finds a rare beauty in the destruction.

Watch if you liked: Last Night

Broken Blossoms (1919)

Director: D.W. Griffith

Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp

If you can get past famous white dude Richard Barthelmess playing an Asian, there’s much to admire in this very sensitive melodrama, which also stars the incomparable Lillian Gish.

Watch if you liked: Sweet and Lowdown

New World, The 100 best movies on Netflix, edit

New World (2013)

Director: Park Hoon-jung

Cast: Lee Jung-Jae, Choi Min-sik, Hwang Jeong-min

The best of the recent under-the-radar gems that prove Koreans are making some next-level pulp fiction, New World is the beautiful lovechild of Oldboy and Goodfellas. You’ll be showing your friends the elevator fight for months.

Watch if you liked: The Wolf of Wall Street

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Director: Otto Preminger

Cast: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara

Preminger had great taste in music, as well as a sharp eye: Duke Ellington contributes a terrific jazz score to this courtroom drama, which stars Jimmy Stewart as a defense attorney battling a young, visibly hungry George C. Scott at the prosecution’s table.

Watch if you liked: The Judge


Battle Royale (2000)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto

Fukasaku’s final film stars “Beat” Takeshi Kitano in a grim, violent tale about a fascist teacher and his sadistic class experiments, designed to illustrate the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest.

Watch if you liked: The Hunger Games

The Trip (2010)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Paul Popplewell

So much more than the dueling Michael Caine impressions for which the film is most often remembered, The Trip is also a refreshingly honest and melancholy portrait of two middle-aged men confronting their own narcissism. Just don’t watch it on an empty stomach.

Watch if you liked: Land Ho!


Movies, Thriller

The Crying Game (1992)

Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Stephen Rea, Jaye Davidson, Forest Whitaker

Overshadowed by its own secret (and Miramax’s aggro marketing campaign of same), Neil Jordan’s sexually charged political thriller is actually quite lovely, redolent of the director’s generous humanism, and featuring excellent work by Forest Whitaker.

Watch if you liked: Love Is Strange

Movies, Documentary

Stories We Tell (2012)

Director: Sarah Polley


In her three self-directed films—Away from HerTake This Waltz and now this—actor-filmmaker Polley has gone further into the thorny subject of forgiveness than any of her peers. Her movies ache with ethical quandary—this one’s a doc about her own family history.

Watch if you liked: Grey Gardens

Movies, Thriller

Charade (1963)

Director: Stanley Donen

Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau

One of the best Hitchcock films that Hitchcock never made (but Stanley Donen did), this rousing comedy-adventure finds Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn teaming up to locate a hidden fortune in Paris.

Watch if you liked: To Catch a Thief

Movies, Documentary

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Director: Steve James


This critically acclaimed, award-winning doc follows two inner-city basketball players who long for NBA glory. The film isn’t only essential, it’s timeless (and no conversation about the greatest documentaries ever made is complete without it).

Watch if you liked: Life Itself

Movies, Drama

Ida (2013)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Cast: Agata Lulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik

Currently winning so many awards you’d think the movie was about an average boy growing up in Texas and not the remarkable story of a nun who discovers her Jewish heritage just before she’s scheduled to take her vows, Ida is short, unforgettable and just about perfect. Consider it a gaping window into Polish cinema.

Watch if you liked: Barbara

Movies, Drama

Almost Famous (2000)

Director: Cameron Crowe

Cast: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson

The movie that Cameron Crowe was born to make, the autobiographical Almost Famous is a cesspit of nostalgia, but if you can wade through the fond memories you’ll find one of the most loving and note-perfect recreations of a particular point in time. Just don’t forget that you’re not a Golden God.

Watch if you liked: Nashville

Movies, Comedy

Stardust Memories (1980)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper

It got a bum rap at the time from folks who thought the comedian was spitting on his fans (“You want to do mankind a service? Tell funnier jokes”), but this gorgeous b&w exploration of the perils of fame is a damn sight better than Allen’s wan Celebrity, and vastly underrated.

Watch if you liked: Somewhere

Movies, Comedy

The Producers (1967)

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn

Yes, Virginia, before it was a hit musical, Mel Brooks’s tasteless gem was a regular ol’ comedy, and a damned funny one at that. His directorial debut is a little uneven and Zero Mostel couldn’t be hammier, but once the “Springtime for Hitler” number kicks in, all is forgiven.

Watch if you liked: Dancer in the Dark

Movies, Action and adventure

Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah

Who knows (or cares, really?) why QT decided to cleave his action epic in half; it’s still a bit of a mess, with the director’s gift for witty banter mysteriously gone AWOL. But the hipper-than-thou bloodletting has a special appeal of its own.

Watch if you liked: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Movies, Drama

The Sacrifice (1986)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Cast: Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood, Allan Edwall

Tarkovsky’s final film is a somber meditation on contemporary spirituality, featuring a fine performance by Bergman regular Erland Josephson and more gloom than you can attempt to summon the energy to consider shaking a stick at.

Watch if you liked: Melancholia


The Up Series, The 100 best movies on Netflix

The Up Series

Director: Michael Apted


No, not Pixar’s Up on repeat, but a group of acclaimed documentaries by director Michael Apted, who returns to the same British interview subjects every seven years to see what’s, um, up with them. He’s been doing this for eight films. They’re all revealing and heartbreaking.

Watch if you liked: Boyhood

Movies, Comedy

Roman Holiday (1953)

Director: William Wyler

Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Helpburn, Eddie Albert

A star is born: Audiences took one look at Audrey Hepburn as the princess yearning for a normal life (where normal equals falling for Gregory Peck) and surrendered their hearts. Fortunately for posterity, the film also has wit and charm aplenty, not to mention one of the most perfect endings in movie history.

Watch if you liked: Before Sunset

Movies, Action and adventure

Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris

A highly distinctive Bond movie, Skyfall has some stunning visual touches: motorbikes racing along the roof of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar; the neon playing off the precipitous glass of a skyscraper in Shanghai; the Scottish landscapes of its bleak finale. And Craig continues to impress.

Watch if you liked: Casino Royale


The Hustler (1961)

Director: Robert Rossen

Cast: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie

Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason turn the pool table into an existential battlefield in this remarkably sordid, unsentimental drama. Try to imagine Hollywood making this movie today—it’s near-impossible.

Watch if you liked: The Color of Money

Movies, Action and adventure

Das Boot (1981)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Cast: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann

Claustrophobics might want to avoid Petersen’s masterful, relentlessly gripping portrait of life on a German U-boat during WWII. But the discomfort is worth it—this is an emotional powerhouse that may have you weeping for Nazis by the end.

Watch if you liked: Inglorious Basterds

Movies, Comedy


Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway

Despite—or perhaps thanks to—a ridiculously romanticized portrait of the borough named by the title, this stunningly beautiful erotic roundelay, immeasurably enhanced by Gordon Willis’s marvelous cinematography, remains one of the Woodman’s supreme masterpieces.

Watch if you liked: Lolita

Movies, Action and adventure

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi

Add ballet’s grace and the kinetic movement of the martial arts to Lee’s trademark sensitivity, and you get this woozy wuxia melodrama, in which Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh repress their mutual desire while fending off foes such as sword-stealin’ Zhang Ziyi. Awesome.

Watch if you liked: Kill Bill

Movies, Thriller

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine

Instead of putting any number of Lambs-related jokes in this space, we’ll just let folks do their own “fava beans and a nice chianti” sucking noise and leave it at that. Oh, and that scene in which the good Dr. Lecter hangs that hapless, skinned guard on the cage? Still gross.

Watch if you liked: Seven

Movies, Drama

There Will Be Blood

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds

One of the great American films (no time-specific qualifier seems necessary anymore), Anderson’s hilariously loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! is a towering profile of the spirit that drives this country, often to its ruin. Get to know the guy who’s drinking your milkshake.

Watch if you liked: The Social Network


Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Director: James Foley

Cast: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin

We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.

Watch if you liked: Margin Call


Movies, Drama

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson

Remember when the term Tarantino-esque hadn’t quite cracked the lexicon yet? Surprisingly, the video-store-geek-turned-auteur’s opus still feels fresh, despite the legion of god-awful clones it’s spawned. Accept no substitutes and relive ’90s cinema glory days once more.

Watch if you liked: Breathless

Movies, Documentary

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Director: Thom Andersen


Andersen’s cinematic essay on Hell-Ay is an interesting look at how Hollywood’s inferiority complex has consistently misrepresented “the real Los Angeles” in film over the years. It resembles an urban studies course taught by an Angeleno strictly for Angelenos, but it’s endlessly illuminating and will make you fall in love with movies all over again.

Watch if you liked: Inherent Vice

Movies, Comedy

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello

Woody’s best-ever plot is a reversal of Buster Keaton’s great Sherlock, Jr. An adventurous movie character (Jeff Daniels) hops down from the screen after spotting Mia Farrow in the audience and falling immediately in love. It holds up now and then some.

Watch if you liked: Irma Vep

Movies, Drama

Funny Face

Director: Stanley Donen

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson

Perhaps the most ostentatiously stylish movie in which Fred Astaire ever appeared, this colorful romance casts Fred as a fashion photographer determined to turn mousy Audrey Hepburn into the era’s equivalent of a supermodel.

Watch if you liked: The Devil Wears Prada

Movies, Animation

Robin Hood (1973)

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Cast: Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Roger Miller

Robin Hood was never this much of a fox, even when he was played by Errol Flynn. This cuddly Disney masterpiece recasts Robin as a fox, Little John as a bear, Friar Tuck as a badger and so on, resulting in an animated treasure that oozes with the inimitable charm that modern versions of the form have all but snuffed out.

Watch if you liked: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Movies, Thriller

The Conversation (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield

In one of the most amazing feats in film history, Coppola filmed this stunning portrait of a lonely wiretapper (Gene Hackman, never better) in the same year that he shot The Godfather: Part II. Most directors don’t manage two masterpieces in an entire career.

Watch if you liked: Blow Out

Movies, Drama

Seven (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey

As subversive a studio movie as has ever emerged from Hollywood, Fincher’s stunningly bleak serial-killer film equates the efforts of lawmen with institutionalized chaos. It also signals the first glimmers of Fincher’s importance. The only downside of streaming it is that it doesn’t give you anything to open while screaming “What’s in the box!?”

Watch if you liked: Psycho

Movies, Drama

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains

Capra has his detractors who scoff at his patriotic earnestness. But the films deserve better: Check out Jean Arthur’s proto-Wonkette in this sharp Beltway farce, drunkenly raising a toast to “bigger and better dummies…and Don Quixote.”

Watch if you liked: HBO’s Veep



Director: Robert Altman

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman

Before Alan Alda, there was Donald Sutherland; before Wayne Rogers, there was Elliott Gould; before Loretta Swit, there was Sally Kellerman; before Gary Burghoff, there was—okay, Gary Burghoff.

Watch if you liked: MASH, the TV show

Movies, Drama

All About Eve (1950)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders

Fasten your seat belts—it’s going to be a bumpy night. Backstage melodramas don’t come bitchier (or as purely gripping) as this one.

Watch if you liked: Birdman


Movies, Drama

Zodiac (2007)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo

The key movie of the Bush era, Fincher’s masterpiece hides its true subject, obsession, under a maze of gruesome data. The city is terrorized by a ghost, and good men lose their way: How is this film not about the dismal Dubya years?

Watch if you liked: Prisoners


Movies, Comedy

Barton Fink (1991)

Director: Joel Coen

Cast: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis

Possibly the best story about writer’s block ever committed to celluloid, this Coen brothers classic is imminently quotable (“I’ll show you the life of the mind!”) and dangerously close to perfect. Turturro’s hair should have won an Oscar, or at least a People’s Choice Award.

Watch if you liked: The Player

Movies, Action and adventure

Goldfinger (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Cast: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman

“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Goldfinger is arguably the greatest of all the Bond pictures, but it’s incontrovertibly the one that’s inspired the most Austin Powers gags. Hard not to pine for the days when a movie could pull off a character named “Pussy Galore” with a straight face.

Watch if you liked: Skyfall

Movies, Action and adventure

The Elephant Man

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

David Lynch’s first Hollywood effort retains his characteristic air of menace while beautifully delivering on the conventions of its genre. John Hurt somehow manages to give a stirring performance beneath what looks like half a ton of makeup.

Watch if you liked: The Silence of the Lambs

Movies, Comedy

The Graduate (1967)

Director: Mike Nichols

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross

We just want to say one word to you—just one word. Are you listening? Spastic. Dustin Hoffman plays one of the most memorable spastics in movie history in this somewhat dated but still hilarious social satire. R.I.P., Mike Nichols.

Watch if you liked: American Pie

Movies, Thriller

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker

Lang’s masterpiece finds the title character (a memorably decadent Rudolf Klein-Rogge) wreaking symbolic havoc all over Germany. Sequels followed, as did a lasting impact on all crime movies to come.

Watch if you liked: The Spy Who Loved Me


The Conformist (1970)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin

Or: “Come out of the closet, lest you wind up becoming a political assassin for a fascist state.” Bertolucci’s first and finest masterpiece stars the great Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Watch if you liked: The Godfather


Serpico (1973)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe

Bushy-bearded, righteous and suffering mightily for his corrupt colleagues’ sins, Pacino’s “weirdo cop” casts a why-have-Thou-forsaken-me glower over the entirety of Sidney Lumet’s landmark police movie, serving up the definitive ’70s-actor Jesus Christ pose.

Watch if you liked: Training Day

Movies, Drama

12 Angry Men (1957)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam

Eleven jurors vote guilty, but one man—Henry Fonda, natch—isn’t so sure. Inevitably, it feels a bit stagy, but with so many great actors (Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam) delivering so many hot-tempered monologues—well, it’s pretty much irresistible.

Watch if you liked: A Few Good Men


The General (1926)

Director: Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton

Cast: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender

Arguably Keaton’s crowning achievement—and inarguably one of the greatest silent comedies ever—this story of a train conductor, his girl and the American Civil War is the dictionary definition of a masterpiece.

Watch if you liked: Safety Last!

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Days of Heaven (1978)

Director: Terrence Malick

Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard

Richard Gere and Brooke Adams play lovers pretending to be siblings who are hired as migrant workers by wealthy farmer Sam Shepard. Narrated by young Linda Manz, and featuring one breathtaking image after another, it’s a luminous and completely absorbing ode to turn-of-the-century America.

Watch if you liked: Witness

Read review

Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

Director: Dziga Vertov


This dizzying, kaleidoscopic portrait of Soviet Russia in motion was originally accompanied by a live musical accompaniment, but then sound would only distract you from some of the most amazing images ever committed to celluloid. Never seen a silent movie? Start here.

Watch if you liked: American Beauty

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale

The fact that the greatest Western ever released happens to be made by Italians shouldn’t hold you back. Henry Fonda’s icy villainy, composer Ennio Morricone’s soaring vocal arias and the monumental Charles Bronson as the last gunfighter (“an ancient race…”) are just three reasons of an estimated zillion to saddle up.

Watch if you liked: Unforgiven

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L'Age d'Or (1930)

Director: Luis Buñuel

Cast: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Caridad de Laberdesque

Conceived in conjunction with Salvador Dalí, Buñuel’s unnerving debut, with its skeletal bishops and wandering cows, remains the quintessential surrealist film.

Watch if you liked: Eraserhead

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Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

A magnificent exercise in escalating unease, Polanski’s poker-faced adaptation of Ira Levin’s neo-Gothic best-seller follows the harrowing gestation of Manhattan mom-to-be Mia Farrow as she unwittingly carries the devil’s offspring. The trendier Farrow’s haircut is, the more unsettling this movie becomes.

Watch if you liked: The Babadook

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Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

One of very few comedies to win the Oscar for Best Picture, Allen’s smash remains one of his very best: a winning examination of the relationship between the ditsy title character (Diane Keaton) and Allen’s standard neurotic loon.

Watch if you liked: When Harry Met Sally…

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Duck Soup (1933)

Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx

The Marx Brothers’ most anarchic film isn’t once bogged down by a precious romantic subplot or a goddamned piano solo from Chico; it’s just the boys at their absolute zaniest.

Watch if you liked: A Day at the Races

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Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

A landmark of Italian Neorealism that’s become virtually synonymous with “foreign films,” this heartbreaking story of a father and son wandering around post-WWII Italy in search of the former’s stolen bicycle doubles as a search for integrity and compassion in a world that seems to be exhausted of both.

Watch if you liked: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

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His Girl Friday (1940)

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Never before or since has so much hilarious dialogue been crammed into so little screen time; even if you’ve seen it before, think about seeing it again, in the hope that you can actually catch all of the jokes this time.

Watch if you liked:Pulp Fiction

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