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Uncut Gems
Photograph: Netflix Uncut Gems

The 30 best movies to watch on Netflix UK

Don't know what to watch on Netflix? Here are the best movies streaming right now on Netflix UK

By Time Out Film
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We've all been there, scrolling through Netflix endlessly trying to find a film to watch, never quite able to make up our minds. It’s like the sheer amount of film and TV on offer breaks our decision-making skills.

Fret not! We’ve compiled a list of the 30 best movies streaming on Netflix right now, including a heap of Netflix Originals like ‘Birdbox’ and ‘Roma’, as well as some other movie magic. 

So take your pick from hilarious comedy movies, cult favouritesbrilliant coming-of-age stories like ‘Rocks’, blockbusters like ‘The Martian’ and the edge-of-your-sofa, nail-gnawing ‘Uncut Gems’. It’s all your movie streaming needs in one place. (Updated Oct 7, 2020.)

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

The best movies on Netflix UK

1. The Truman Show

Film Fantasy

Director: Peter Weir

Cast: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney

A comedy-satire that gets more prescient with every passing year, this jaunty journey into the dark heart of media saturation catches you off guard with its deep wells of emotion and pathos. Jim Carrey deserves all the credit for his Oscar-nominated turn as Truman Burbank, a kind of human Wall-E who steals back his life from a breathtakingly cruel reality TV experiment. But props, too, to screenwriter Andrew Niccol for coming up with a futuristic fable that was literally decades ahead of its time.

Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Photograph: Netflix

2. Annihilation

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. 

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Photo: Netflix

3. Roma

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.

Romantic film: When Harry Met Sally
Romantic film: When Harry Met Sally
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

4. When Harry Met Sally…

Film

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

This is a film where everything works: Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s just-this-side-of-smug central couple, the gorgeous photography of New York through the changing seasons, even Harry Connick Jr’s jazz-lite soundtrack. And it’s all rooted in Nora Ephron's flawless script.

 

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5. Being John Malkovich

Film Fantasy

Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: John Cusack, Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich

Set in a world in which John Malkovich and Charlie Sheen are actual mates, ‘Being John Malkovich’ hangs wonderfully together on the kind of loopy-but-kinda-brilliant premise – a puppeeter (John Cusack) finds a portal into Malkovich’s mind – that only screenwriter Charlie Kaufman could come up with, and only director Spike Jonze could conjure onto the screen. That is, with dry wit, sci-fi inventiveness, gusto-filled performances and just a dash of madness. It’s turned 21 this year and it’s as silly-celebral as ever.

Marriage Story
Marriage Story
Photograph: Netflix

6. Marriage Story

Film Drama

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver

Like ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ vs Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’, this marital-breakdown masterpiece has just enough lols to leaven the tears. And there are plenty of those, with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson dazzling in Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical tale. 

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Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems
Photograph: A24

7. Uncut Gems

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.

8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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.

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A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place
Photograph: Jonny Cournoyer

9. A Quiet Place

Film Horror

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

Actor-director John Krasinski’s relentless shocker thrives on a nifty premise: in a post-apocalyptic near future, a family must survive in a world where the slightest sound brings out deadly monsters. And now with a bit longer to wait until the sequel, now is the perfect time to watch the first film again. 

10. Spirited Away

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.

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Photograph: Peter Mountain

11. The Two Popes

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. 

12. The King's Speech

Film Drama

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

‘The King’s Speech’ picked up four Oscars for its moving depiction of the unlikely friendship between the future King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel Logue, hired to cure the royal stutter. As his brother abdicates the throne, George tries to overcome his speech impediment before his first live radio broadcast.

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13. The Revenant

Film Action and adventure

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

Director Alejandro G Iñárritu and actor Leonardo DiCaprio both picked up Oscars for their work on this icy survival thriller about frontiersman Hugh Glass. Be warned: it’s not one to watch if you’re feeling squeamish.

14. West Side Story

Film Drama

Director: Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins

Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris

Given that this 1957 film is getting the remake treatment courtesy of Steven Spielberg in 2020, why not head on down to Netflix and remind yourself of the original. It's a beauty. 

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15. The Martian

Film Action and adventure

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor

When it came out, this space adventure represented a major return to form for Ridley Scott – and it remains possibly his best movies since ‘Gladiator’. Again, it has a solitary hero doing things the hard way: this time an on-form Matt Damon's stranded astronaut turning Robinson Crusoe while NASA and others come up with a rescue plan. Thrilling, fun and winningly old-fashioned in its delivery, it ends on an optimistic note of international cooperation that will fill your sails. 

Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

16. The Irishman

Film Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

Martin Scorsese delivers one of the best, if bloated, films of his career. Along with all the gangster gab, it touches on broken trust. self-doubt and regret. Also, unlike the cinema, with Netflix you can break its three-hour runtime into chunks. 

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Filme, Cinema, Nunca Estiveste Aqui (2017)
Filme, Cinema, Nunca Estiveste Aqui (2017)
©DR

17. You Were Never Really Here

Film Drama

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov

British filmmaker Lynne Ramsay returns with this concise, poetic and violent drama in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a troubled US war veteran. 

18. Good Time

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. 

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American Factory
American Factory
Photograph: Aubrey Keith/Netflix

19. American Factory

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
Moneyball
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

20. Moneyball

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.

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21. Midnight Cowboy

Film

Director: John Schlesinger 

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight

‘Midnight Cowboy’ is one of the great films about the transition to the gritty ’70s. ‘A sometimes amusing but essentially sordid saga of a male prostitute in Manhattan’ was Variety’s harsh judgment at the time, but its stature has grown and grown since then. The performances of Hoffman and Voight anchor the narrative, while the soundtrack, editing, flashbacks and dream sequences pull in the opposite direction, evoking a sense of the dreams tantalisingly out of reach and promises destined to either break, or leave them broken.

Netflix

22. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Film Drama

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen 

Cast: James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson

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. But at roughly 20 minutes each, they’re mini-masterclasses in economy and style.

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23. Ex Machina

Film Science fiction

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland’s debut film is a contemplative and thrilling exploration into what exactly makes us human. It’ll seriously make you question how you treat Siri or Alexa. 

 

Rocks
Rocks
Photograph: Altitude

24. Rocks

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.

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Hunger
Hunger
Photograph: Film4

25. Hunger

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham

Steve McQueen’s debut drama tells the story of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), an IRA prisoner whose hunger strike at Belfast’s notorious Maze made him a cause célèbre in 1981. It’s a deliberate, unblinking depiction of a man trying to wrestle his demons to the floor that’s worth seeing just for its stunning, 17-minute single-take scene between Sands and his priest (Liam Cunningham). Although there’s a lot more to it than that, not least Fassbender’s commanding performance. 

ENOLA HOLMES
ENOLA HOLMES
Photograph: ROBERT VIGLASKI /LEGENDARY ©2020

26. Enola Holmes

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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The Last Tree
The Last Tree
Photograph: BFI

27. The Last Tree

Director: Shola Amoo

Cast: Sam Adewunmi, Denise Black, Nicholas Pinnock, Tai Golding

British-Nigerian filmmaker Shola Amoo chronicled Brixton’s gentrification in his eye-catching debut film ‘A Moving Image’. His follow-up is even better. It’s the kinda-autobiographical story of Femi (Samuel Adewunmi), a teenager moved from his foster home in bucolic Lincolnshire to the edginess of Elephant & Castle. The layering of migration story on migration story lends ‘The Last Tree’ cultural complexities rarely seen in the cinema of London as it tackles questions of identity and belonging that steers it miles away from hoodies-with-handguns clichés. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Photograph: NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020

28. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Director: Aaron Sorkin

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

Aaron Sorkin’s second directorial drama is a step up in assuredness from the sparky but showy ‘Molly’s Game’. This time he lets the story do the talking – and what a story. The politically pivotal 1969 trial of seven anti-Vietnam protestors and one Black Panther roped in on trumped-up charges could have been a slog of a courtroom drama. Instead, thanks to an on-form cast (MVPs are Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong and Mark Rylance) and a firecracker script, the topical events come alive in a blaze of fiery passions and comic tension-breakers.

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29. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Film Drama

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone

Michael Keaton makes a mighty comeback as a washed-up actor attempting to reinvent himself as a proper artist. However, this isn't the super-cynical, snarky piss-take of actors it might sound like. Life is disappointing, the film explains, but it's also beautiful and, at times, unexpected. That's the power of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s daring, funny, strangely sweet, sad and utterly brilliant New York-set comedy.

Bird Box
Bird Box
Saeed Adyani

30. Birdbox

Director: Susanne Bier

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

A hyper-effective piece of genre fun or a social-media-fuelled slice of sub-'A Quiet Place' hokum? Like Marmite or a badly-conceived referendum, this Sandra Bullock post-apocalypse thriller has divided Netflixers in two. Whatever your views, it's hard to find any fault in Bullock as its blindfolded-but--badass hero, leading two wee'uns through a world of pain.

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