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The 35 best Netflix Original movies to stream right now

Here are all the Netflix original films that are worth your time, from ‘Roma’ to 'The Mitchells vs. the Machines.'

Written by
Andy Kryza
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Do you remember the action comedy Game Over, Man! in which the Workaholics guys riffed on Die Hard? Or perhaps Bright, in which Will Smith battled orc-based racism? What about The Cloverfield Paradox, or the last five Adam Sandler movies that weren't Uncut Gems?

No?

Now that Netflix is now more productive than any of the traditional Hollywood film studios, the chasm between its hits and its misses has grown wider. For every Oscar-winning opus like Roma, there are dozens of 6 Undergrounds vying for your precious click. But while scrolling through the streamer is increasingly akin to staring blank-faced at a wall of videos at Blockbuster, there are some truly magnificent offerings produced by Netflix.

We scoured the streamng catalogue and selected 35 exemplary films created by Netflix. Here, you'll find trailblazing documentaries and heart-rending dramas, white-knuckle action blockbusters, world-class animation and more than a few quirky genre offerings. (Of note, we skipped studio films that were released by Netflix in international markets like Annihilation and Uncut Gems, which you should absolutley seek out.) Clear out the queue: These are the best Netflix original movies so far.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best movies on Netflix US and Netflix UK

The best Netflix originals ever made

Beasts of No Nation (2015)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah

Beasts of No Nation is a humane and uncompromising portrait of one boy’s experience as a child soldier in an unnamed African country. Tough to watch, it’s violent and pulls no punches. You want it to be hard to imagine, but actually it’s everything you’d imagine: civil war, family break-up, isolation, indoctrination, murder and rape. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga (True DetectiveNo Time to Die), Beasts is made with verve, fragmented and nightmarish, and blessed with the poetic rhythms of a version of English that’s mesmerising and alienating.

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Nancy García García

In his deeply personal black and white marvel Roma, Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuarón unhurriedly observes the smallest details first, before expanding to gradually reveal the social and political canvas of 1970s Mexico City. It’s the city where he grew up – in a middle-class neighbourhood called Roma. A sober and autobiographical elegy about his childhood and the women who raised him (one hardworking live-in maid in particular), the movie coalesces out of episodic recollections, digitally filmed with a crisp, grain-free appearance for unsentimental visual conviction. 

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Arliss Howard

Working from a script written by his late father, obsessive auteur David Fincher’s sumptuous, black-and-white account of alcoholic genius Herman J Mankiewicz’s struggles to write Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane is extremely niche. But for those caught in its sights – namely, fans of film history, Golden Age craftsmanship and mid-Atlantic accents – it is absolutely mesmerising, featuring career-best performances from the majority of its stacked cast and standing alongside Adaptation as one of the greatest films ever about the creative process. Like we said, extremely niche. But also one of the best-crafted films of the past decade.

Mudbound (2017)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Dee Rees

Cast: Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige

A period tale of two families directed by Pariah’s Dee Rees, Mudbound is a vivid, visceral drama that explores how the Second World War changed the racial dynamics in the deep South. As weather, isolation, farming matters and health issues enforce an uncomfortable mutual dependency, the dynamic between the two clans increases in complexity. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, Mudbound is emotive but unsentimental: traversing it feels as authentically gunky as the muddy swamps in which it is set.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Al Pacino

As The Five Satins’ ‘In the Still of the Night’ plays, the camera creeps forward... only this time it’s not through the Copacabana nightclub à la Goodfellas, but down a nursing home hallway. Is this where Scorsese’s gangsters end up? Only the unlucky ones, the film suggests. Adapted by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) from 2004 crime memoir I Heard You Paint Houses, this 209-minute epic isn’t about still nights so much as the dying of the light that comes with old age. It’s also about the belated surge of guilt that comes at the end of a life of crime.

Sky Ladder: The Art Of Cai Guo-Qiang (2015)
  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Cast: Documentary

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang is internationally renowned for his spectacular ‘explosion paintings’ and dizzying firework displays, but for more than two decades one pet project proved elusive. First attempted in Bath (of all places) back in 1994 (it was cancelled due to bad weather, predictably), Sky Ladder is just what its name implies: a runged column of flame reaching high (500 metres) into the air. This unfussy documentary from Kevin Macdonald follows Cai as he sets out on his fourth attempt to make Sky Ladder a reality.

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13TH (2016)
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  • Documentaries

Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: Documentary

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement to say you need to see any movie more than once to absorb it fully. Yet Selma director Ava DuVernay’s dense, pulsating, overwhelming documentary on racial inequality in the US is so full of facts, voices, passion and wisdom that it’s almost impossible to keep up. What comes across loud and clear, however, is that this is a serious, timely, important film whose highways and byways of thought are worth travelling for anyone who cares to understand why, as DuVernay argues, slavery didn’t end with slavery.

Black (2016)
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  • Drama

Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah

Cast: Sanaa Alaoui, Martha Canga Antonio

The Romeo and Juliet story never gets old, but the mix of youthful romance and rivalry has rarely been put across with such brute force as in this sinewy Belgian drama. The outline is familiar, as 15-year-old Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), the latest female recruit to Brussels gang the Black Bronx, falls for Moroccan boy Marwan, from a rival clan (Aboubakr Bensaihi). The Belgian-Moroccan directors certainly don’t bottle it, unleashing crunching carnage and some upsetting sexual violence to show how the gangs’ reign of fear victimises the women who come along for the ride then can’t break free.

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Five Came Back (2017)
  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Laurent Bouzereau

Cast: Documentary

When America went to war in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hollywood did too: Marquee film directors, struck by patriotism, became officers overnight and shipped out to the front lines with cameras, mounting their own propaganda campaigns. Mark Harris’s 2014 historical book of criticism has become an even better documentary, built out of harrowing battle footage and the testimony of several modern-day directors including Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Sandler, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller

This witty and knotty comic portrait of a dysfunctional New York family unpacks the emotional baggage of three adult siblings played by Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel – the kids of a New York sculptor, Harold (Dustin Hoffman, in a shuffling self-possessed performance). It’s core territory for writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), who thrives on Woody Allen-like grown-up comedies spun from the lives of urbanites.

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Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017)
  • Film

Director: Griffin Dunne

Cast: Documentary

Unflinching and intimate, this documentary profile captures the whole of its subject’s no-bull perspective over decades of work. As shaped by Didion’s nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold avoids easy answers; it has no use for sentiment. Instead it’s a crash course in the heady days of New Journalism, when Didion’s Malibu home was an informal salon for bearded Hollywood types and fresh thinking. Fans of Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking know her life is touched by tragedy; this film probes her depth of feeling, hidden by a survivor’s long gaze.

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  • Drama

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, Tyne Daly

Richly entertaining and blackly funny but told with sincerity and heart, the half-dozen western tales packed into The Ballad of Buster Scruggs show the Coen brothers loading up their six-shooter and firing barely a dud. Inevitably, some of the stories satisfy more than others: the final yarn, a spooky Washington Irving-like doodad starring Brendan Gleeson as a bounty hunter aboard a doom-laden coach, ends things on an oddly low-key note. But at roughly 20 minutes each, they’re mini-masterclasses in economy and style, given glorious sweep by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, An Seo Hyun

Parasite Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is a globalised caper comedy with a conscience buried somewhere among all its silliness. In the film’s sights are GM food production and the poor treatment of animals, and at its heart is a cute, often winning relationship between an oversized pig and a Korean girl called Mija (An Seo Hyun). Call it a wacky kids’ film with a message (one delivered in a script co-written with Jon Ronson), and it’s just fine.

The Mitchells Vs. the Machines (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

14. The Mitchells Vs. the Machines (2021)

Directors: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe

Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph

The team behind the soaring Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse scored an all-timer with this wild collision of National Lampoon’s Animal House and Philip K. Dick in which a family’s road trip across the US is waylaid by a robot uprising. The cast – which also includes Olivia Coleman as a malicious iPhone – delivers a barrage of mostly great jokes to supplement the relentlessly funny sight gags, but even stripped of its sci-fi narrative, Mitchells clicks as a hysterical cross-generational comedy and one of the best cinematic representations of Gen-Z online culture. It’s an instant classic on par with Pixar’s best.

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Macon Blair

Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Devon Graye

Buckling with distinctly American rage, splattery violence and plenty of dark laughs, the immensely timely I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore still feels like the movie of the moment. Lonely medical assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey, seething and magnetic) fumes at everything she sees. And when she comes home one day to find she’s been burgled, there’s an almost cosmic completion to her total state of sadness.

Chasing Coral (2017)
  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Cast: Documentary

Educating audiences on abstract environmentalism is one thing; making them actually care about the inconvenient truth is another. Jeff Orlowski’s marvellous Chasing Coral accomplishes the latter and even unexpectedly earns your tears via a suspenseful study of the mass death of coral reefs. By the end, you’ll see corals not only as underwater life forms but as dreamy, endangered neighbourhoods inhabited by unspeakably beautiful Nemos and Dorys.

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  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Sandi Tan

Cast: Documentary

Propelled by a decades-spanning mystery as unsettling as any in a David Lynch film, novelist-turned-documentarian Sandi Tan’s gloriously personal documentary Shirkers is a vivid scrapbook about growing up a cinephile and a misfit. It’s both a nostalgic throwback to ’80s and ’90s Singapore, where the filmmaker’s artistic appetite blossomed, and an emotional reconciliation with her past, which was interrupted by a shocking theft.

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  • Drama

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Whitlock Jr

Spike Lee returns to the battlefield following the tepidly received Miracle at Santa Anna for this exploration of the Black veteran experience and the scars of Vietnam. The film flits between the past and the present as the namesake grunts – hardened by PTSD and an uncaring homeland – return to Vietnam to put a fallen friend to rest (Chadwick Boseman, in one of his final performances) and search for a stash of gold buried in the jungle. This being a Spike Lee joint, things become fraught quickly. But along the way, Lee manages a stark meditation on America’s dark past in the east, drawing a career-best turn from Delroy Lindo as a hardened conservative wrestling with his past while trying to forge a future for himself.  

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Private Life (2018)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, Kayli Carter, Paul Giamatti

Antiseptic hallways, glib doctors and tense waiting rooms (where every couple seems to be facing down the unthinkable) make up the early goings of Private Life, a movie about the heart-wrenching calculations of in vitro fertilisation. Call it a major medical miracle, then, that this subject has found writer-director Tamara Jenkins, who transforms this crucible of disappointment and colossal financial strain into something close to a riot.

Atlantics (2019)
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Director: Mati Diop

Cast: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré

Young lovers are separated in this wistful, atmospheric first feature from Mati Diop, the first black female director to compete for the Cannes Palme d’Or. Soon after we meet spirited teenager Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) in Dakar, she is grinning at Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré) across the road as traffic whizzes past, his solemn, lovelorn face holding secrets she doesn’t yet know. Soon there will be an ocean between them, and she will be left to wonder if he is alive or dead, while marrying a wealthy man she doesn’t love.

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Icarus (2017)
  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Bryan Fogel

Cast: Documentary

Imagine a version of Morgan Sperlock’s Super Size Me in which, instead of merely bloating up, Sperlock entered into an uneasy friendship with an evil clown version of Ronald McDonald, and you’ll get a sense of the unexpected depth of Icarus. At first, we see self-medicating doc director Bryan Fogel injecting his tush with thick testosterone, hoping to compete in Switzerland’s Haute Route bicycle race. But in order to execute his plan, Fogel collaborates with Russia’s Grigory Rodchenkov, a disgraced doctor who masterminded his nation’s athletic doping programme. Icarus eventually shifts into a fascinating exposé of the latter trickster.

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lily Banda,Maxwell Simba, Felix Lemburo

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s debut film is good for the soul – a true-life tale of hope and courage centered on a plucky teen whose tenacity pays off. As a storyteller, Ejiofor shows he is capable of crafting an emotionally rich narrative and competent, if not inspired, direction. But perhaps his greatest talent lies in his choice of cast, who elevate the material. Based on the memoir by William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the inspirational story of a curious-minded teen living in Malawi who saves his village from starvation by building a wind turbine hooked up to a peddle-bike dynamo.

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Dolemite is my Name (2019)
Photograph: Netflix

23. Dolemite is my Name (2019)

Director: Craig Brewer

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan Mike Epps

Eddie Murphy fulfils his destiny to don the shimmering hat of Blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore in Craig Brewer’s dense, often hilarious biopic that chronicles the rise of the legendary kung-fu star, low-budget auteur and bonafide ladies’ man. Seemingly taking Moore’s signature Disco Godfather plea to ‘put your weight on it‘ fully to heart, Murphy delivers one of his most nuanced performances in the title role. Brewer smartly surrounds the comedy god with capable supporting players (Wesely Snipes damn near steals the thing) while developing a rich period tapestry that fully immerses viewers into the seedier side of ‘70s entertainment, crafting a film of a piece with Boogie Nights

  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim

Cast: Documentary

Thinking about deleting your Facebook account? The Great Hack will be one more reason to pull the plug – it’s a comprehensive doc on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a sleazy consulting firm mined behavioural information from millions of users to create targeted political propaganda across the social network and beyond. Pondering individual data rights and the sinister side of widespread connectivity, the co-directors diligently inspect how our innocent likes and shares became the building blocks of Brexit and Trump.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Alan Alda, Laura Dern

Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama is a bruising tour de force. Rarely has Scarlett Johansson, pared-down and de-glammed, been this aching and betrayed. Never has Adam Driver, even with his Star Wars rage monster Kylo Ren under his belt, torn into his lines with such vicious ruination. This is easily the film of Baumbach’s career, one that’s only sharpening. Don’t expect a happy ending.

  • Film
  • Animation

Director: Jérémy Clapin

Cast: Dev Patel, Alia Shawkat, George Wendt, Tucker Chandler

Remember Thing, the spider-like severed hand from The Addams Family? Well, another disembodied mitt is at the centre of French animation I Lost My Body: only it’s vulnerable instead of terrifying. Director Jérémy Clapin’s masterful adaptation of graphic novel Happy Hand is a tender exploration of what it’s like to lose part of yourself, both metaphorically and literally. it all builds to a climax that’s as powerful as a fist, and as sensitive as your fingertips.

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Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019)
  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Documentary

The Rolling Thunder Revue was a willfully eccentric tour. Itching to play smaller venues, an exceptionally freewheeling Dylan went on the road with a revolving door of folk all-stars, followed by all-access cameras for a film that never quite came together. Today, Scorsese intercuts the old footage with new interviews, contextualising it all with the post-Watergate times that were a-changin’. The film is full of stolen moments: Dylan and Allen Ginsberg visiting Jack Kerouac’s grave, impromptu jams at house parties, painfully candid conversations with Joan Baez. It rarely strays from the man himself, but if you’re here for Dylan, that’s fine.

The Old Guard (2020)
Photograph: Netflix

28. The Old Guard (2020)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor

 

The Netflix action machine has churned out more flesh wounds than headshots, with every Extraction overshadowed by duds like Kate, 6 Underground and Gunpowder Milkshake. But with The Old Guard, director Gina Prince-Bythewood crafts a legitimate blockbuster crowd-pleaser, an adult comic-book bruiser in which Charlize Theron goes full Furiosa with an ancient axe as the leader of a cadre of unkillable warriors keeping the world’s most sinister villains in check across multiple eras. The action is top-tier, but it’s the characters – richly drawn, believably romantic and utterly badass – who elevate The Old Guard beyond its pulpier trappings. 

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujín

This entertaining odd-couple bromance about two men in the running for Pope hits the heights when it’s just its leads, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, whacking great swathes of dialogue back and forth like two old tennis greats. Hopkins’s German Pope Benedict, sly but oddly touching behind his crusty exterior, slathers on the topspin; Pryce’s Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis), guileless, direct and blessed with the common touch, smacks it back across the net. It’s thrilling stuff, with director Fernando Meirelles’s camera close at hand to register every subtle detail.

Cam (2018)
Photograph: Netflix

30. Cam (2018)

Director: ​​Daniel Goldhaber

Cast: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters

Former sex worker-turned-screenwriter Issa Mazzei goes full Cronenberg in this deranged, refreshingly sex-positive tale of a cam girl whose online persona seemingly takes on a life of her own. But lest you think this is another riff on The Dark Half, Daniel Goldhaber foregoes any slasher aspirations for a sordid, mind-bending doppelganger yarn whose terrors stretch beyond the tactile, offering a terrifying look at the duality of online life and the very real horrors of doxxing, fan obsession and personal identity in a digital world.

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Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Photograph: Netflix

31. Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito

The Keanu Reeves cameo is an all-time great, but Always Be My Maybe is so much more than its biggest viral moment. At its heart, this tale of two childhood pals trapped in the friend zone is a classic rom-com in the mold of The Philadelphia Story and Nora Ephron’s best, with Randall Park and Ali Wong shining bright as they navigate dating in San Francisco and the relentless pull of their feelings. Neo may steal the show, but it’s Park and Wong who elevate what could be a pat meet-cute into the stuff of rom-com legend.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: Vince Gilligan

Cast: Krysten Ritter, Aaron Paul, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons

Ever wondered what the first thing Shane did after he rode over the horizon? Or how Red and Andy set to work on that Mexican beach in The Shawshank Redemption? For those who argue that a perfect ending is best left untouched, this sporadically enjoyable but inessential and often inert Netflix Breaking Bad extension is basically exhibit A. Still, it’s a classily-made slice of fan service.

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Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

33. Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

Director: Leigh Janiak

Cast: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr

Netflix drew head scratches from a generation of latchkey kids when it announced three hard-R horror adaptations of RL Stine’s decidedly PG-rated paperback series. But the biggest surprise in Fear Street isn’t the gore – with respect to the head-meets-bread-slicer gag – but how well it works. Taking a cue from Stranger Things (as all things now must), the film pays homage to ‘90s slasher fare like Scream and smartly packs its cast with smart teens whose inevitable deaths actually sting. The follow-ups – extended Friday the 13th riff 1978 and the puritans-on-a-rampage 1666 – are also fun, but the series is at its best when it sticks to the ‘90s, when the Rob Zombie needle drops are inevitable and the spirit of fun lurks around every corner. 

The King (2019)
  • Film

Director: David Michôd

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris

A meaty piece of historical drama, The King mixes power plays, canny twists and brutal, widescreen medieval battles (prepare for much clashing metal and head severing) with a refreshing lack of deference for the Shakespeare plays on which it’s loosely based. Sure, some of the historical detail is embellished and Shakespeare purists may scream heresy, but director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) has done something genuinely fresh and confident with this well-told piece of English folklore.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance


Perhaps the Aaron Sorkinest film ever Sorkined, The Trial of the Chicago 7 harkens back to the golden age of middlebrow courtroom crowd-pleasers, and that’s actually a good thing. The West Wing mastermind here assembles a cast of brilliant actors to wrap their silver tongues around marble-mouthed regional American dialects and deliver verbose speeches. Is it historically accurate? Maybe only slightly more than The Social Network. But in its essence, it harkens back to a time when the whole world was watching master actors deliver A+ monologues while barely passing history. Who needs accuracy when things are this rousing?

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  • Film
  • Documentaries

Netflix has revitalised the documentary industry. ‘Making a Murderer’ became a global talking point overnight, followed by exclusives like ‘13TH’, ‘Amanda Knox’ and ‘The Ivory Game’. But which of these true tales are worth 90 or more minutes of your precious time? 

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