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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, brilliant cult favourites, heart-warming coming-of-age stories like Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’, blockbusters like ‘Jaws’ and the edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting ‘Uncut Gems’. It’s all your movie streaming needs in one place. (Updated 18 Apr 2020.)

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

The best movies on Netflix UK

1. 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. 

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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3. Boyhood

Film Drama

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane

Shot over 12 years with a cast of actors that ages before our eyes, Richard Linklater’s modern-day coming-of-age classic is a peerless artistic gamble. Both Arquette and Hawke turn in understated portrayals, Linklater steering them to the kind of parental wisdom that can only develop over time. Just as vividly, the kids experiment with small acts of rebellion, growing into independent thinkers. Unshakable, witty and deeply felt, the film will be paying emotional dividends for a long, long time.

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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7. 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.

A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

8. 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. 

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Photograph: Peter Mountain

9. The Two Popes

Film Drama

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce

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. It’s thrilling stuff, with director Fernando Meirelles’s camera close at hand to register every subtle detail. 

10. Mean Streets

Film

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro.

The definitive New York movie, and one of the few to successfully integrate rock music into the structure of film: watch Keitel waking to the sound of the Ronettes, or De Niro dancing solo in the street to 'Mickey's Monkey'. Mean Streets is also pure Italian-American. Scorsese directs with a breathless, head-on energy which infuses the performances, the sharp fast talk, the noise, neon and violence with a charge of adrenalin. It's one of the best American films of the decade.

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11. Spotlight

Film Drama

Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

Based on a true story, this Oscar-winning drama about a group of journalists and their investigation into the prolific and systemic child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area has all the tension of an Oliver Stone thriller without the inevitable three-hour runtime. 

American Factory
American Factory
Photograph: Aubrey Keith/Netflix

12. American Factory

Film Documentaries

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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The Pact
The Pact
Photograph: Universal Pictures

13. Blockers

Film Comedy

Director: Kay Cannon

Cast: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena

Snappily directed by Kay Cannon, ‘Blockers’ brews a bubbling panic about parents invading their teenagers’s lives when they shouldn’t, and brandishing their concern like fake IDs.

14. 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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15. 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. 

16. 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. 

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Photograph: 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. 

Bird Box
Bird Box
Saeed Adyani

18. 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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Filme, Cinema, Nunca Estiveste Aqui (2017)
Filme, Cinema, Nunca Estiveste Aqui (2017)
Photograph: StudioCanal

19. 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. 

Lady Bird
Lady Bird
Photograph: A24

20. Lady Bird

Film Comedy

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf

A sweet, deeply personal portrayal of female adolescence that’s more attuned to the bonds between girlfriends than casual flings with boys, writer-director Greta Gerwig’s beautiful 'Lady Bird' flutters with the attractively loose rhythms of youth.

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21. 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.

22. 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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23. The Silence of the Lambs

Film Thrillers

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

When FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) is sent to conduct an interview with serial killer shrink Dr Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) in his high-security cell, she little knows what she’s in for. As their relationship blossoms, the hunt for the killer dubed Buffalo Bill continues, leading to one of the finest final acts in thriller history.

Apollo 11
Apollo 11
Photograph: Dogwoof Pictures

24. Apollo 11

Film Documentaries

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

The most perfect movie that will ever be made about its subject, ‘Apollo 11’ tells the story of the first journey to the moon using only Nasa footage captured in the moment, an approach that spotlights the thousands of people who toiled in synchronicity to pull off America’s greatest mission. For the main event we see the capsule’s own thrilling cinematography, while the personal backstories of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin are told in flurries of silent images. This film will bring you to tears. 

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Netflix

25. 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.

Ex Machina
Ex Machina
Photograph: Film4/Universal Pictures

26. 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. 

 

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Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems
Photograph: A24/Netflix

27. 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.

28. 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.

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29. 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.

30. 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.

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