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Glory
Photograph: TriStar Pictures

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 Feb 15, 2021.)

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.

Photo: Netflix

2. 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.

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Marriage Story
Marriage Story
Photograph: Netflix

3. 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. 

Glory
Glory
Photograph: TriStar Pictures

4. Glory

Film Drama

Director: Edward Zwick

Cast: Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman

An American Civil War epic full of conviction, derring-do, cacophonous combat and powerhouse acting (Denzel Washington won his first Oscar as firebrand private Trip), ‘Glory’ tells the true-life story of the Union’s first African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. The climactic battle sequence is the most intense beach scene this side of ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

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5. Headhunters

Film Thrillers

Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

A breakneck thriller laced with some deeply satisfying black comedy, this Jo Nesbø adaptation is a slickly entertaining treat. It visits all manner of suffering and indignity on Norwegian corporate douchebag Roger (Aksel Hennie), a part-time art thief who gets in deep with the wrong people, including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s ex-elite soldier.  

Open Water
Open Water
Photograph: Lions Gate Films

6. Open Water

Film Drama

Director: Chris Kentis

Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

Boasting the same lo-fi aesthetic as ‘The Blair Witch Project’, this existential anti-thriller about two divers left in a sea of sharks cuts to the bone of a similar shared terror: helplessness in the face of something greater and more implacable than ourselves. Watch both films in close succession and they’ll put you off the countryside and the seaside forever. 

 

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News of the World
News of the World
Photograph: Netflix

7. News of the World

Film Drama

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Bill Camp

A world-weary Civil War veteran-turned-travelling news reader (Tom Hanks) and a traumatised girl (Helena Zengel) embark on a ‘The Searchers’-like odyssey across Texas in this restrained, poetic Paul Greengrass film. There’s all the shootouts, horse-y havoc and dusty corrals a western fan could wish for – and a lot of soul, too, in its exploration of two wounded people finding comfort in one another.

8. 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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Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Photograph: Netflix

9. 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. 

10. Galaxy Quest

Film Fantasy

Director: Dean Parisot

Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell

A loving piss-take of sci-fi serials, ‘Galaxy Quest’ takes a few hilarious potshots at actors too – with its game cast buying wholeheartedly into the mockery. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Sam Rockwell are the cast of a ‘Star Trek’-like TV series mistaken for the real deal by a desperate alien race. Big laughs, unlikely heroics and mishaps with teleportation devices ensue. If you haven’t seen it, now is the time to fix it. 

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Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan
Photograph: DreamWorks Home Entertainment

11. Saving Private Ryan

Film Drama

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Hanks, Jeremy Davies, Barry Pepper, Tom Sizemore, Giovanni Ribisi

Like The Dirty Dozen with a conscience (provided by Tom Hanks, natch), Spielberg’s vérité war film is a men-on-a-mission movie that finds time to tackle big questions of duty, sacrifice and comradeship. It also finds time to completely reinvent the visual grammar of big-screen combat with two bookending, cacophonous battle sequences seemingly purpose-built to dislodge your eardrums.

Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems
Photograph: A24

12. 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.

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Wild Rose
Wild Rose
Photograph: Entertainment One/Film4

13. Wild Rose

Film Drama

Director: Tom Harper

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo

Country music is universal in this gripping Brit drama that flaunts the acting and musical talents of Jessie Buckley. The Irish actress plays Rose-Lynn, a single mum and ex-convict scratching out a living as a cleaner in Glasgow and playing country bangers at nightclubs. She dreams of making it all the way to Nashville and finds an ally in the well-to-do woman whose house she cleans (Sophie Okonedo). Look out for a cameo from legendary radio DJ ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris (not whispering here).

14. 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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Photograph: Peter Mountain

15. 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. 

16. 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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Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

17. 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. 

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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19. 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. 

American Factory
American Factory
Photograph: Aubrey Keith/Netflix

20. 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.

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Moneyball
Moneyball
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

21. 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.

The Forty-Year-Old Version
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Photograph: Netflix

22. The Forty-Year-Old Version

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.

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Netflix

23. 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.

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. 

The Last Tree
The Last Tree
Photograph: BFI

26. 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. 

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Pieces of a Woman
Pieces of a Woman
Photograph: Benjamin Loeb / Netflix

27. Pieces of a Woman 

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn

Kicking off with an anguished 24-minute labour scene captured in one unblinking take, this portrayal of one woman’s recovery from unthinkable heartbreak is spearheaded by a powerhouse Vanessa Kirby. The British actor is devastating along Shia LaBeouf in charting the fallout of tragic loss. Is it a feelgood classic? Probably not. Will its themes of healing, reconciliation and recovery lift the spirits? Absolutely.

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

29. 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!

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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