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The Harder They Fall
Photograph: David Lee, NetflixThe Harder They Fall

The 30 best movies on Netflix UK right now

Summer classics, sun-drenched horrors and everything in between are waiting.

Written by
Andy Kryza
Phil de Semlyen
Alim Kheraj

Netlix is a trap: struggle though you may, it's likely that booting up means spending hours scrolling through comedies, romances and horror flicks, only to give up after an hour and rewatch Stranger Things for the fifth time. Finding the best movies on Netflix is a bit like being trapped in the Matrix, minus the cool leather trenchcoats but plus a bevy of bad Adam Sandler movies

To help with your time management, we've scoured Netflix and found some true treasures. You’ll find summer blockbusters and slow-burn dramas. We've got Oscar winners and brand-new contenders, Netflix originals, action heroes and comic legends. What you won't find is a single dud. Here are the 30 essential movies on Netflix right now. 

Recommended: London and UK cinema listings, film reviews and exclusive interviews

The best movies on Netflix UK

The Power of the Dog (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

1. The Power of the Dog (2021)

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons, Kodi Smit-McPhee

It wears the brimmed hats and saddle-worn chaps of a western, and even indulges in the odd dusty brawl, but Jane Campion’s mesmerising psychological drama has its head and heart elsewhere. Instead, the Kiwi auteur transposes Thomas Savage 1967 novel into a thoroughly modern-feeling takedown of toxic masculinity, in which a career-best Benedict Cumberbatch goes full Daniel Plainview as a rancher with some deep-buried secrets. It’s one of 2021’s very best films.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Film
  • Drama

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano

Paul Thomas Anderson has a new movie on deck, but his magnum opus remains this tale of a corrupt oil man in the 1800s. In There Will Be Blood, everybody is firing on all cylinders. From Robert Elswit's stunning cinematography to Jonny Greenwood's score and Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis' career-defining turns, everything here is perfectly in sync. It’s long. It’s often slow, sometimes funny and always invigorating and impossible to look away from. Drink it up. It’s a masterpiece.

Point Break (1991)
  • Film
  • Thrillers

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Patric Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty

Yes, this is the film that features Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent and Patrick Swayze as the zen  sky-diving surfer who steals his heart while robbing banks. And yes, Gary Busey screams about meatball sandwiches, pitbulls are used as projectiles and a man fires a gun into the air while yelling ‘ahhh!’. So why are we still talking about Point Break 30 years on? Because it’s one of the best action films of all time, complete with breathtaking stunts, an eye-popping foot chase and some of the greatest heists in the genre. Three decades later, it still makes good on the tagline’s promise: It’s 100 percent pure adrenaline.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: Jeymes Samuel

Cast: Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Idris Elba, Delroy Lindo, Zazie Beetz and LaKeith Stanfield

Each member of The Harder They Fall’s cast is a headturner on their own, so imagine the rush of seeing them as dueling posses. But the red-hot ensemble is just one of the draws of Jeymes’ hyper-stylized, ultraviolet Black western, which is chock full of kinetic camera work, frenzied action, expertly deployed needle drops and desert landscapes painted crimson amid heavy gunfire. This isn’t your daddy’s oater. It’s the western wrested from its more contemplative roots and reinvented as something it hasn’t been in decades: fun. 

  • Film

Director: Curtis Hanson

Cast: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger

Curtis Hanson’s tapestry of corruption, fame and murder stands tall alongside Sunset Boulevard  and The Long Goodbye on the long list of great LA noir mysteries, with a game cast including then-newcomers Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce wading deep into the seedy world of lookalike prostitutes and crooked cops. The James Ellroy adaptation is the feather in the fedora of the late ‘90s noir revival not because of how well it approximates the look and feel of the classics, but how it builds upon the foundation of the genre to offer something at once fresh and familiar.

Boyz N the Hood (1991)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: John Singleton

Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr, Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube

Equal parts compassionate and shocking, John Singleton’s searing debut shook audiences with its depiction of South Central LA’s gang culture. Arriving in the middle of the gangsta rap boom of the ‘90s, the film is a rejoinder to vintage hip-hop’s  glamorisation of the thug life, via a tragic tale of youth trapped in a cycle of violence by an uncaring system. Even 30 years later, it leaves a mark.

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira 

In his deeply personal black and white marvel ‘Roma’, director Alfonso Cuarón dives into his Mexican boyhood with this absorbingly rich tribute to the resilient women who raised him – before expanding to gradually reveal the social and political canvas of 1970s Mexico City.

  • Film
  • Fantasy

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace

Jaws — also streaming right now — cemented Steven Spielberg as the master of the summer blockbuster, all but ensuring kids stay as far away from the water as possible. For those not looking to ruin summer pastimes, ET is the director at his most endearing. The Reese's Pieces-addicted alien still looks great, and the summer vibes here have helped inform everything from Stranger Things to Super 8, though none have topped it. It also pairs beautifully a backyard double feature Spielberg's Amity Island classic.

Spirited Away (2001)
  • Film
  • Animation

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Miyazaki's first digitally animated feature (the highest-grossing Japanese film ever) initially seems like a ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ fantasy, but rapidly picks up a resonance, weight and complexity that make it all but Shakespearean. Chihiro, a sullen ten-year-old, is moving house with her parents when they stumble into the world of the Japanese gods – where the greedy parents are soon turned into pigs. A truly magical fable unfolds as she navigates this fantastical kingdom.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Film

Directors: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Cast: Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones 

The closest that the Coen brothers have yet come to a full-blown horror film, this bleak, violent and nerve-shredding Cormac McCarthy adaptation is as nihilistic as they come. A dusty, music-free chase through the desolate American southwest, the film features one of cinema's most blood-curdling villains in the form of Javier Bardem's smiling, bowl-cutted villain, with Josh Brolin's roughneck cowboy enduring all manner of injury en route to the inevitable. Every moment here counts. And each of those moments is dripping with dread courtesy of filmmakers at the top of their game.

  • Film
  • Horror

Director: Bernard Rose

Cast: Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen

With Nia DaCosta's long-awaited followup here, now is the perfect time to revisit this jarring, gory and socially charged classic of '90s slasher cinema. Tony Todd oozes seductive menace as the apparition of a hook-handed slave sowing fear in a Chicago housing project, while Virginia Madsen transcends final-girl frailty as a resilient academic researching urban legends. With its evocative Philip Glass score and campfire-ready lore, it's one of the most overrated horrors of its time, delivering jolts and pathos with the efficiency of a rusty hook to the jugular.

The Handmaiden (2016)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Park Chan-wook

Cast: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo

There are two types of people in the world: Those who read the phrase ‘kinky 1930s-set psychosexual thriller from the director of Oldboy, Thirst and Stoker’ and immediately tune in, and those who simply don’t know the deranged joys of South Korean madman Park Chan-wook. Time to change that.

Zodiac (2007)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo

David Fincher’s serial-killer masterpiece perplexed Seven fans seeking another pound of flesh wrapped in a true-crime package: Zodiac is a cold, calculated forensic drama that largely relegates the real-life Zodiac Killer to the shadows, instead focusing on the detectives both certified and amateur seeking to discover his identity. When the killer does surface, it’s the stuff of nightmares, particularly during the Donovan-scored opening bloodbath. But it’s the aftermath of hollowed-out lives and ruined relationships left in his wake that show the killer’s true legacy.

  • Film
  • Drama

Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie

Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel

The Safdie Brothers’ electrifying and abrasive drama about the week in the 2012 life of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Diamond District dealer is an intense high-stakes triumph.

The White Tiger (2021)
Photograph: Tejinder Singh Khamkha

15. The White Tiger (2021)

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao

Sharp-edge class commentary meets visceral gangland violence in a rollicking Indian thriller that throws rural ingenue Balram (Adarsh Gourav) into the Delhi fast lane as a chauffeur who charms his way into a high-caste dynasty. The themes, as translated from Aravind Adiga's Booker-winning novel, are Shakespearean; the execution seriously visceral and cinematic – and newcomer Gourav is a revelation as the smart, savvy Balram. 

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)
Photograph: Netflix

16. The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Director: Rahda Blank

Cast: Rahda Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin

This smart, zippy and meaningful comedy about finding a voice, breaking through and being true to yourself comes from the pen – and real-life experiences – of New Yorker Radha Blank. ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ feels fearless, letting all the hang ups hang out when it comes to sex, success and hitting your fourth decade.

  • Film
  • Horror

Director: Ari Aster

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter

Aster's follow up to the instant horror hall-of-famer Heredity — also streaming, if you're feeling brave — proved divisive, and it's understandable. A wildly psychedelic, three-hour slice of folk horror sprinkled with ugly Americans comedy in which the carnage unfolds in perpetual Swedish daylight, Midsommar is abrasive, daring and wholly original in spite of its Wicker Man winks. Florence Pugh — newly minted Black Widow heir — is a powerhouse driving a film that's affirming and stomach turning, often in the same brightly lit shot.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Scorsese's opulent, degenerate opus whizzes by despite its 3-hour runtime thanks to the kinetic energy and explosive performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, whose behavior shifts from shockingly funny to monstrous so quickly and so often that you often find yourself complicit in their crimes. At its black heart, this is a horror movie masquerading as a Looney Tunes finance-bro comedy. It's also a knockout, and the film that introduced the indelible Margot Robbie to the mainstream.


19. The Old Guard (2020)

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Released to great fanfare mid-pandemic, this R-rated comic book flick has pretty much everything that the Marvel movies are lacking, including innovation action, front-and-center queer characters and a willingness to go big with its lore without being beholden to 30 other character arcs. It also has Furiousa herself, Charlize Theron, as an immortal axe-wielding ass kicker leading a cadre of unkillable warriors in an effort to keep us mere mortals safe. If only the Fast movies would let Theron rip this much…

  • Film
  • Science fiction

Director:  Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac

In a rare example of Hollywood sci-fi-horror thoughtfulness, 'Annihilation' has grand concepts in mind, ideas about self-destruction and rebirth. The film follows cellular biologist Lena (Portman) as she ventures to The Shimmer, an anomalous electromagnetic field, to discover the truth about what happened to her husband Kane (Isaac), who visited The Shimmer and returned in poor health and his memory missing. 

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Simon Stone

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan

Just as olde-worlde feeling as you might expect when your main characters are called ‘Edith’ and ‘Basil’ (and they aren’t using codenames) – and all the better for it – ‘The Dig’ packs a stealthy emotional punch. Carey Mulligan (Edith) and Ralph Fiennes (Basil) are the wealthy widow and the amateur archaeologist that she hires to investigate the ancient burial site on her land. It turns out to be world-renowned Saxon site of Sutton Hoo, though we’re really here for gently profound musings on mortality and the passing of time. 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Directors: Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

It may lack the satire-with-a-purpose edge of Life of Brian, but Holy Grail is the sillier, funnier film, packed with goofy laughs rather than hey-I-get-that cleverness. It’s aged better too, less beholden to notions of revolutionary politics and more reliant on slapstick violence, sudden explosions, surrealist wordplay and scatological asides. You’d be an empty-headed animal food-trough-wiper not to tee it up asap.

Good Time (2017)
  • Film
  • Thrillers

Director: Josh and Benny Safdie

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

This crime thriller from filmmaking brothers Benny and Josh Safdie is cocky, grubby and electric. It features Robert Pattinson on top form as Connie, a charismatic, quick-thinking chancer who we first meet extracting his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from a therapy session so they can spend the morning robbing a bank. Once the Brooklyn bank job goes south, the film stays on the move, running, punching, tumbling, stumbling over 24 hours as the fallout drags us through streets, vehicles, homes, jail, a hospital, a theme park and more. 

  • Film

Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

2020’s Oscar-winning documentary is a film of two halves: the first records the resurrection of a shuttered Ohio car glass factory by Chinese corporation Fuyao; the second takes us to China to see how the company operates on its own turf. Suffice to say there’s more than an ocean between the two working cultures. Co-directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar take a gentle, non-polemical approach to this uneasy partnership, but there’s no shortage of ouchy moments – as when the Chinese workers are caught disparaging their American counterparts’ work ethic or the Americans gamely try to join in on the company song. An essential watch.

Moneyball (2011)
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

25. Moneyball (2011)

Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright

Like an out-of-form batter, sports films can be hit and miss. Baseball movies, though, are steady performers – and in this case, much better than that. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a journeyman MLB player who became a watchword for the analytics-based innovation that revolutionised not just baseball, but other sports too. Sound dry? There’s barely a spreadsheet in sight, just crackling Steven Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin-scripted dramatics as Beane turns his sport on its head with some help from Jonah Hill’s stats genius.

  • Film

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.

Rocks (2019)
Photograph: Altitude

27. Rocks (2019)

Director: Sarah Gavron

Cast: Bukky Bakray, Anastasia Dymitrow, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes, Kosar Ali, Tawheda Begum 

This tough, authentic and heart-swelling coming-of-age drama is London’s answer to ‘The 400 Blows’ – only with extra Snapchatting, can-kicking, trash-talking energy. It’s the story of Rocks (newcomer Bukky Bakray), a British-Nigerian teenager whose mum vanishes, leaving her and her adorbs younger brother to make their own way in a daunting city. Luckily, she has resilience and a posse of pals to help her along. One of the best films in cinemas in 2020, it’s now one of the best movies on Netflix too.

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall

At the height of his comedic powers, Eddie Murphy took a break from action comedies for this certified classic about an African prince who ships off to Queens, New York (of course) to find his bride. This is perhaps Murphy's most good-natured effort, and the joys of watching his endlessly cheery royal endure the harshest New York stereotypes with a smile on his face are limitless. 

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce

The title makes it sound like the world’s most unlikely buddy movie, and that’s essentially what this talky but endlessly likeable and thought-provoking adaptation of Anthony McCarten’s play is – like ‘The Odd Couple’ set in the Vatican. Welsh acting legends Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce share the screen for the first time as Pope Benedict XVI and the more liberal cardinal who might end up replacing him, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Watching the two of them shooting the shit (our words, not theirs) is a pure pleasure, as their uneasy respect blossoms into an unexpected friendship. 

Enola Holmes (2020)

30. Enola Holmes (2020)

Director: Harry Bradbeer

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

Proving that her Eggo-scoffing breakout turn in Stranger Things was no flash in the pan, Millie Bobby Brown single-handedly turns this Sherlock Holmes spin-off into a giddying, galloping delight. She’s Enola, the brainy but belittled sister of the great detective (Henry Cavill), who heads off a crime-solving escapade of her own to find her missing mum (Helena Bonham Carter) and demonstrates that strong-willed genius runs in the family. The dame is afoot!


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