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The 51 best movies on Netflix right now

So many options, but which to pick? Consult our ranked list of the very best movies on Netflix streaming.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, best fantasy movies
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
By Time Out contributors, edited by Joshua Rothkopf |

We all know the feeling: desperately scanning through endless menus of Netflix choices, eyes glazing over, knowing that our impulsive thumbs are going to doom us to some terrible midseason episode of a worthless show we hated the first time. Actually, the best movies on Netflix are staggeringly good right now: You can see films by Steven Spielberg, classic romantic comedies, action movies, sci-fi masterpieces, radical documentaries and foreign films. We've done the work for you—and we've even ranked the list, because that's how we roll over here.

Best movies on Netflix

L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Director: Curtis Hanson

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce

Both a gorgeous throwback to ’50s Hollywood tough guys and a piercing comment on the post–Rodney King ’90s, Curtis Hanson’s tightly wound cop drama runs on the tension between L.A.’s dream-factory mechanics and the sordid reality. It’s a place where one could run into a hooker at the Formosa Cafe who looks like Lana Turner—or into the real Turner herself.

Watch if you liked: Casino

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Movies, Drama

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom

Hobbits and orcs and dark lords, oh my! Peter Jackson’s now-classic first installment of his J.R.R. Tolkien epic introduces the characters and sets up the story’s conflict beautifully. But just wait until you get to the next one.

Watch if you liked: Game of Thrones

The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Movies, Comedy

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is an amiable single guy who works at a big-box store. Living alone, 40-year-old Andy spends his free time playing video games and curating his action-figure collection. Despite his age, Andy has never had sex, so his friends, including the laid-back David (Paul Rudd), push Andy towards losing his virginity. While attempting to get over his awkwardness around female customers, Andy meets local shop owner Trish (Catherine Keener), and they begin a tentative romance.


Lincoln (2012)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

We all knew what Lincoln was going to be before we saw it: tub-thumping  speeches, arm-waving Oscar-bait performances, soaring strings, blunt emotional manipulation. So the film itself came as something of a surprise: a quiet, thoughtful, intensely dramatic movie focusing on the minutiae of political debate rather than the grand sweep of history. Those Oscars were well deserved.

Watch if you liked: Hamilton

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Movies, Drama

Boyhood (2014)

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

Even with all the gush spilled over Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making family saga, it still might be underpraised: In watching these actors age, learn and grow (without recourse to melodrama or suspense), viewers grasped onto a beautiful continuum that few filmmakers achieve. The wait was worth it.

Watch if you liked: The Tree of Life

Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights (1977)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread may have graced year-end top-ten lists across the board, but this sprawling tale about a genuinely “gifted” porn star (Mark Wahlberg) is where the director’s talent for big-picture storytelling first made itself apparent. It also wins the contest for the best prosthetic-cock cameo of the past few decades, hands down.

Watch if you liked: The Deuce

The 100 best horror films, horror movies, the sixth sense
Movies, Horror

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette

Let’s stretch back to a time when the name M. Night Shyamalan didn’t trigger groans, cackles or dull-eyed stares. Leaping to prominence with this expertly scripted ghost story, the director seemed to have it all: a talent for pacing and atmosphere, a Serling-esque gift for a clever twist ending (just one at this point in his career), and an easy way with actors, especially this film’s Haley Joel Osment, a rare horror Oscar nominee.

Watch if you liked: The Shining

HUG IT OUT Melamed, right, takes more from Stuhlbarg than body heat.
Movies, Comedy

A Serious Man (2009)

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick

Always dogged by the criticism of excessive caricaturing, the Coens took a leap into the unknown with this Book of Job–like reminiscence, inspired, in part, by their own ’60s Jewish boyhoods. It vibrates with humor, sadness and a scary mystique (“Accept the mystery” is a key line of dialogue).

Watch if you liked: Diner

Movies, Horror

The Babadook (2014)

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall

Aussie Jennifer Kent’s supremely confident feature debut already feels like a horror classic, restoring the genre to its psychological prestige while turning the monstrous-mommy gimmick on its head. Inventive, recognizably real and scary as fuck, the film staked out a shadowy domestic terrain last dominated by Roman Polanski.

Watch if you liked: Rosemary’s Baby

Battle Royale, The 100 best movies on Netflix, edit
Movies, Action and adventure

Battle Royale (2000)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto

Fukasaku’s final film stars “Beat” Takeshi Kitano in a grim, futuristic tale about a fascist high-school teacher and his sadistic class experiments, designed to illustrate the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest.

Watch if you liked: The Hunger Games

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Best movies on Netflix by genre

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