Get us in your inbox

Search
Uncut Gems
Photograph: A24

The 29 best movies to stream on Netflix right now

From sci-fi classics to Netflix originals, we’ve dived head first into Netflix and picked the best movies streaming now

Written by
Andy Kryza
Advertising

There’s such an overwhelming assortment of films currently streaming on Netflix right now, that choosing something to watch can feel like a Herculean task.  You can spend hours scrolling the selection of horror classics, comedies, and action flicks without actually watching anyting at all. While we all love choice, decision fatigue is real.

So real, in fact, that Netflix recently launched a feature that will choose what to watch for you. If you’re not ready to trust an algorithm, though, allow us to help. We’ve dived into the extensive library of movies and curated a list of the best films on Netflix streaming now.

Want more amazing movie recommendations? We got you covered

Best movies on Netflix

  • Movies
  • Drama

Directors: Josh and Benny Safdie

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

A career-best Adam Sandler outdoes his stellar work in Punch-Drunk Love and even the bit in Happy Gilmore where he beats up Bob Barker as super-skittish gambling addict and New York jeweler Howard Ratner in the Safdie’s jolt of raw nervous energy. The fallout from Ratner’s biggest wheeze – an accumulator bet on an NBA game of near-mesmerising complexity and improbability – will leave your blood pressure in the red zone. Strap in.

  • Movies
  • 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.

Advertising
13th (2016)
  • Movies
  • Documentary

Director: Ava DuVernay

Named after the slavery-abolishing Thirteenth Amendment, Ava DuVernay’s gripping, angry doc argues that incarceration has become the new slavery in America. And with a wildly disproportionate Black prison population and corporations using it for free labour, the evidence is irrefutable – and DuVernay’s line-up of experts (including activists and historians like Angela Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr) present it with ferocious clarity. 13th is an absolute must-see: one of those eye-opening documentaries that will change the way you see the world in an instant.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)
Photograph: ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

4. The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

Director: Mike Rianda

Voicecast: Olivia Colman, Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride

From the inventive and groundbreaking minds that brought you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, comes this highly entertaining animated movie about a family road trip and a robot apocalypse. The script is sharp, the comedic timing perfect and there’s even Olivia Colman voicing an evil A.I. hellbent on destroying the world. What’s not to love?

Advertising
  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins, Tom Burke

Part love letter, part sworn affidavit, David Fincher’s Citizen Kane making-of story never lets Hollywood off the hook. It’s fulsome in its love for a medium that Orson Welles (Tom Burke) reinvents with his 1941 opu, but damning of its studio owners’ cynicism and reactionary streak. Shot through with monochromatic elegance, it evokes a long-lost period in dazzling scale and detail. Gary Oldman’s boozy, outspoken screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, who whirls through it like a human tornado, is a joy to watch.

  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Chadwick Boseman

Spike Lee’s corrective to the history of the Vietnam War foregrounds the Black Americans who fought and died in a conflict that they had little stake in. It’s a political treatise wrapped in a treasure hunt –
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with a point to make about remembrance and duty – that twists and turns in unexpected directions. It also has fired-up performances, especially from Delroy Lindo and Clarke Peters as veterans returning to the country in search of buried gold and Chadwick Boseman as the old comrade whose memory they seek to honour.

Advertising
Snowpiercer (2013)
  • Movies
  • Action and adventure

Director: Bong Joon-ho


Cast: Chris Evans, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton

Bong Joon-ho’s Terry Gillam-indebted adaptation of an obscure French comic book isn’t quite as nuanced in its social commentary as Parasite – it’s about a perpetual-motion train where the rich reside in the front and the poor eat bug paste in the back. But it’s nonetheless a wild, iconoclastic vision, one where each new train car opens up its own lived-in world, be it a heavily propagandised classroom or a freight car full of axe-wielding maniacs. It’s a nightmarish parable that keeps getting wilder: When Captain America talking about cannibalising babies is the least bugnuts thing happening in a given moment, you know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller.

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

Directors: Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

When the film first came out, being the right age (an advanced 13) helped with one's appreciation of the troupe’s lunatic clomping over the Scottish Highlands. If you can regress far enough, you’ll probably still find several bits just as funny: “It’s just a flesh wound,” etc.

Advertising
Lady Bird (2017)
  • Movies
  • 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.

  • Movies
  • Science fiction

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer

Unlike fellow legacy-tinkerer George Lucas, Ridley Scott’s approach to re-editing his magnum opus is one that embraces minimalism. Scott’s definitive cut of his rain-soaked future-noir classic elevates what was already arguably the director’s masterpiece to incredible new heights, stripping away the studio interference including Harrison Ford’s Xanax-y voiceover) for a rawer, more mysterious take on Philip K Dick. The core is all still here, from Ford’s hard-boiled maybe-replicant to Rutger Hauer’s heartbreaking final monologue, but Scott’s final cut is one of sci-fi’s essential masterpieces fine tuned to maximise its enigmatic power.

Advertising
  • Movies
  • Drama

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits

Miss a new film by the Coens at your own peril. Their latest—an amusingly violent six-part comedy set in a highly stylized Old West—feels a touch like a placeholder after the darker riches of Inside Llewyn Davis and Hail, Caesar! But when Zoe Kazan shows up on the dusty trail as an evolving frontierswoman, the movie deepens into the kind of drama the brothers are capable of. You'll have much fun with this.

  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern

Last year's finest film is already on the streaming service—a tribute to Netflix's excellent taste in original projects. Starring a never-better Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, director Noah Baumbach's triumph is the most nuanced movie about divorce, in all its heartache and banality. Grappling with its molten emotions is worth the pain.

Advertising
The Boys in the Band (2020)
Photograph: Scott Everett White

13. The Boys in the Band (2020)

Director: Joe Mantello

Cast: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells

Joe Mantello takes the directing chair on this film adaptation of the 1968 eponymous play. This is actually the second version of the movie—the first one was released in 1970—and it stars the full cast of the play's 2018 Broadway revival, a roster comprised of only openly gay actors. The material is extremely heavy, the cinematography on-point and the acting will absolutely break your heart.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2018)
  • Movies
  • Documentary

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Documentary (?)

Just as Bob Dylan often wore a magician’s white face (or even a plastic mask) on this 1975 tour, director Scorsese is having fun with the truth, infusing his flow with subtle fictionalizations that may outfox you. Among Scorsese’s co-conspirators are Sharon Stone and Michael Murphy, appearing as “presidential candidate” Jack Tanner.

Advertising
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi

An uncompromising portrait of one boy's experience as a child soldier in an unnamed African country, this one is tough to watch, but especially worthy. It's everything you'd imagine: civil war, family break-up, isolation, indoctrination, murder, rape. They're all here, along with a thrilling sense of survival.

  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Sean Baker

Cast: William Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite

Celebrating a community on the margins, indie wunderkind Sean Baker’s portrait of a ratty motel on the outskirts of Disney World in Orlando is a compassionate and colorful film that not only asks you to empathise with its subjects but also interrogate the systems that they’re lives are affected by. It’s also worth watching just to see William Dafoe play something other than a villain for once.

Advertising
  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro

Clocking in at 209 minutes, the lengthy runtime of this Scorsese gangster epic might put you off (try tackling it in two parts). If you’re willing to invest, though, the payoff is worth it: often electrifying, this is a truly memorable film about doubt, broken trust and self-reflection in the face of old age. De Niro’s performance as Frank Sheeran gets better and better as the minutes pass, while Pacino clearly has a ball as Jimmy Hoffa. Even Scorsese’s decision to digitally de-age his cast for part of the movie is a gamble that somehow pays off.

Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
Photograph: Netflix

18. Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)

DirectorKirsten Johnson

This gloriously humane meta-doc has documentarian Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) steeling herself for the death of her dad by asking him to act it out. Repeatedly. Gamely Dick Johnson, a newly retired psychiatrist, goes along with it. The result is a wonderful, off-beat watch that explores how we relate to grief and loss with hilarious candour. It’s about dads and their daughters, life and loss, celebration and commemoration. About how to make the most of what you have while you have it. It’s one for the bucket list. 

Advertising
Private Life (2018)
  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Gabrielle Reid

Bursting out of a relatively weak Sundance lineup, writer-director Tamara Jenkins's first movie in more than a decade shows the maker of The Savages in flinty form. Her new one is a comedy about the heartwrenching calculations of in vitro fertilization. If that doesn't sound like a laugh riot, let us re-introduce you to the effortlessly wry Paul Giamatti and a revelatory Kathryn Hahn.

  • Movies
  • Documentary

Director: Sandi Tan

Cast: Documentary

Propelled by a decades-spanning mystery as unsettling as any in a David Lynch film, Sandi Tan’s gloriously personal documentary 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.

Advertising
Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Movies
  • Comedy

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee, Spike Lee

Spike Lee's breakout remains his most unfiltered masterpiece, and its narrative about racial tension centered around a Brooklyn pizza shop remains as blazing today as the heatwave-plagued city in which it's set. Few films of this era are as iconic and influential, and this cornerstone of the era's indie-film explosion remains as incendiary now as it was upon its release.

Midnight Special (2016)
  • Movies
  • Science fiction

Director: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Martell

Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols dips his toes into Amblin waters with this tale of a supernaturally powered boy and his gruff father hitting the road with a backwoods cult and government agents in full pursuit. The cast is stacked, with Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Shepherd offering up solid support, but it’s the fraught father/son dynamic between Michael Shannon and Jaeden Martell that drives the film, resulting in a tender and dark low-budget marvel with heart and thrills in abundance.

Advertising
  • Movies
  • Thriller

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Elizabeth McGovern, Danny Aiello, James Woods

Spaghetti western auteur Sergio Leone's 1900s-set New York crime epic was once considered completely inaccessible due to its four-hour length, staggered chronology, dense cast, and abrasive and violent content. In the age of prestige TV, that all sounds like a whimsical mid-afternoon watch.

  • Movies

Director: Jim Henson

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie

David Bowie headlines this Jim Henson bomb-turned-cult-classic about a bratty teenage drama kid (Jennifer Connelly) transported to a magical land of goblins, flatulent bogs and friendly beasts. The Thin White Duke delivers a few show-stoppers as the central glam-goth villain, but it’s the creature design by Henson and Brian Froud that elevates Labyrinth to the upper echelon of kids’ fantasy fare, creating a fleshed-out world of scary monsters and super creeps that balances its macabre side with generous portion of whimsy and comedy.

Advertising
American Factory (2019)
Photograph: Aubrey Keith/Netflix

25. American Factory (2019)

Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

This Oscar-winning doc, made by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company no less, has a tonne of pertinent things to say about working culture and globalisation. It follows the takeover of an Ohioan auto glass factory by a Chinese company. It should be a good news story of thousands of American jobs saved and a town’s welfare protected, but the truth is far more complicated. The question of whether Chinese and American workers can collaborate successfully takes the film from Moraine, Ohio to Fuqing, China. The answer is… well, -ish. 

Howards End (1992)
  • Movies
  • Action and adventure

Director: James Ivory

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave

Merchant Ivory turned again and again to E.M. Forster, and they must have been in sync with his convoluted prose style, because they got the tone right every time. Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter excel in this Oscar-winning adaptation of what many consider Forster’s greatest work.

Advertising
  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis

A kinda-romcom with all the jokes and feelgood vibes replaced by existential angst and a generalised sense of foreboding? What could be more Charlie Kaufman than an impeccably-acted mindwarp of a film that starts as a simple road trip and ends as an enigma we’ll be chewing over and debating for years to come. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are a couple heading home to meet his folks (Toni Collette and David Thewlis, perfectly attuned to Kaufman’s skittish frequency), but is it all in his head? Or hers? It’ll definitely get stuck in yours.

  • Movies
  • Drama

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Carter, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Aaron Sorkin manages to pack in the sense of political and social turmoil of late-1960s America into this ferociously articulate courtroom drama about the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war protestors blamed for rioting outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The director is on unshowy form here, letting the story speak for itself, while the terrific ensemble cast equally keep things nicely understated. Truly stirring stuff.

Advertising
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

29. Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)

Director: Leigh Janiak

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

With Halloween upon us, now is the perfect time to binge through Netflix's surprisingly solid hard-R adaptations of RL Stine’s PG-rated paperback series. The trilogy-starter, 1994, is the best of the bunch, a film that relishes in gnarly kills but also capably riffs on ‘90s slasher fare like Scream to craft a throwback crowd-pleaser destined to be a sleepover staple. Horror purists, meanwhile, should be appeased by the movie's committment to overkill, particularly a nasty run in with a bread slicer.  

Recommended

    More on Netflix

      You may also like
        Advertising