Photo: Courtesy of the Studio
This post is updated regularly as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
With hundreds of films from around the world on the streaming giant that changed the game, how does one even know where to start when they’re looking for something to watch? Start here! We have gone through the massive catalog of films available on Netflix and pared down the selection to an essential 30 titles, including action films, comedies, horror flicks, and even stuff for the whole family, with Netflix Originals peppered in throughout, alongside its licensed films. These are films that came from outside the Netflix pipeline to subscribers, and it will be regularly updated as flicks come and go from the Netflix catalog, starting with our pick of the week.
Runtime: 1h 49m
Director: Tony Scott
Tom Cruise reminded everyone that he is really the last true movie star with the amazing success of this film’s sequel in 2022, a movie that’s likely to be a major player at the Oscars soon. Why not go back to the original and see how the story of Maverick and Iceman rocked the world over 35 years ago? A lot of this is pretty dated now, but in a way that makes the nostalgic ride even more fun (and will make you appreciate Maverick even more).
Runtime: 2h 50m
Director: Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s incredibly detailed and lavish period piece about one of the most infamous eccentric millionaires of all time. It feels like every other month produces a bit of social outrage about Scorsese’s place in movie history, or his comments on Marvel movies. Ignore that noise and just watch one of his works that doesn’t get nearly enough praise, anchored by one of DiCaprio’s best performances and some of the most impressive aerial cinematography of all time.
Runtime: 2h 14m
Director: Ang Lee
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this romantic drama, one of the best films of the ‘00s. Adapted from the short story by Annie Proulx, Ang Lee’s film is tender and heartbreaking, the story of unaccepted love between two men in the American West. It features some of the career-best work from Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams.
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Luca Guadagnino
One of the best films of the 2010s, this drama stars Timothée Chalamet as a boy who discovers his own sexuality when he’s wooed by an older man, played by Armie Hammer. Delicate and moving, this is a remarkable drama because of how true it feels, anchored by great performances throughout, not just from the two leads but the amazing Michael Stuhlbarg too.
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director: John Patton Ford
This excellent indie thriller has really built an audience since it was added to Netflix. Get on the bandwagon before somebody recommends it to you. Aubrey Plaza does career-best film work as Emily, an L.A. woman who is struggling to pay off student loans when she’s presented with a low-level criminal opportunity. It gets worse from there. A riveting commentary on the gig economy, it’s a must-see.
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: Barry Jenkins
Following up on a Best Picture win can be tough for any filmmaker but Barry Jenkins delivered with this lyrical and moving adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin. It stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, and the Oscar-winning Regina King in the story of a young couple struck down when he’s wrongly charged with a crime. It’s a masterful drama from one of the best American filmmakers.
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Jane Campion
The film that finally won an Oscar for Jane Campion for directing is one of the most acclaimed in the history of the streaming giant. Campion helmed this adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, the story of a vicious landowner (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) of his brother (Jesse Plemons). A drama that plays like a thriller, this gorgeously rendered period piece unpacks themes of toxic masculinity and manipulation in a way that makes it impossible to turn away. It’s not just one of the best Netflix Original films, it’s one of the best, period, of the 2020s so far.
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Sam Mendes
See, Tom Hanks doesn’t always play the nice guy. In Sam Mendes’ adaptation of the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, America’s dad plays a mob enforcer seeking revenge. What’s most memorable about this 2002 film is Mendes’ remarkable attention to period detail. It’s a gorgeous film just to live in for a couple hours. Don’t do this one on your phone.
Runtime: 2h 58m
Director: Peter Jackson
The Oscar-winning franchise by Peter Jackson bounces around the streaming services with alarming regularity, now finding its way to Netflix for an indeterminate amount of time. Watch the entire saga of Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gange, and the rest of the Fellowship while you can.
Runtime: 2h 17m
Director: Martin Campbell
Every now and then, an actor and a blockbuster role just make a perfect fit. That was certainly the case when Antonio Bandera’s was cast in Martin Campbell’s reboot of the legendary character of Zorro. Banderas is so charming here that the movie made enough money to produce a sequel in 2005, which is also on Netflix.
Runtime: 2h 25m
Director: Steven Spielberg
One of Steven Spielberg’s best modern movies is this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story about a future in which crime can be predicted before it happens. Tom Cruise stars as a man who is convicted of a crime he has no intent of committing in a fantastic vision of a future in which the systems designed to stop crime have been corrupted. It’s timely and probably always will be.
Runtime: 1h 45m
Director: Sam Raimi
Before he made superhero movies but after he made horror ones, the amazing Sam Raimi was given his biggest budget to date for this 1995 Western with style to spare. Sharon Stone plays a gunfighter who ends up in a town called Redemption, ruled with iron fist by a tyrant played by Gene Hackman. Russell Crowe and a young Leonardo DiCaprio star in a film that’s become increasingly appreciated in the years since its release.
Runtime: 2h 30m
Director: Gareth Evans
Gareth Edwards wrote, edited, and directed the insane follow-up to his breakthrough hit that takes everything he did with The Raid and turns it up to 11! Like incredible action choreography? Unbroken takes? Stunts that defy the laws of physics? The Raid 2 is quite simply one of the best action movies of the last decade, a thrill ride from beginning to end.
Runtime: 1h 39m
Director: Quentin Tarantino
One of the only Quentin Tarantino flicks on Netflix right now is his first effort, a movie that announced a major new talent as much as any debut of the ‘90s. Remarkably, unlike a lot of ‘80s and ‘90s debuts, Reservoir Dogs works just as well today. It would arguably be an even bigger hit if it came out in 2023. That’s how much QT influenced the form for three decades and counting after its release.
Runtime: 1h 54m
Director: Rowdy Herrington
As production on a remake of this cult classic (with Jake Gyllenhaal!) gets underway, why not go back and check out the original again? Patrick Swayze plays the bouncer at a totally average Missouri bar who ends up getting sucked into a violent world when he crosses paths with the wrong bad guy. Sam Elliott and Kelly Lynch star in a movie that feels like a perfect distillation of the many charms of Mr. Swayze.
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: John Avildsen
The one that started it all is on Netflix, waiting for you to do a catch-up before seeing Creed III in a few months. Go back almost five decades now to see the start of the Rocky Balboa saga in a film that truly took the world by storm, becoming the highest grossing film of 1976 on its way to winning Best Picture and making Sylvester Stallone a household name.
Runtime: 3h 5m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
One of the biggest films in the world in 2022, this crazy action flick really took off in the United States when it dropped on Netflix. It’s hard to put into words just how much movie you get with RRR. It’s kind of all the movies — musical, romance, comedy, action, drama. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in here. You’ll want to watch it twice.
Runtime: 2h 14m
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Living legend Viola Davis stars in this retelling of the all-female warriors of the kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. She plays General Nansica, who trains young women to follow in her footsteps, and leads a rock star ensemble of future stars that includes Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, and Sheila Atim. You’ll know all their names soon enough.
Runtime: 1h 56m
Director: Marc Forster
The people behind this massive blockbuster took the relatively simple book of the same name by Max Brooks and made it into a globe-hopping epic about the end of the world on a massive scale. Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a United Nations investigator who tries to stop a zombie pandemic while it’s actually happening. It’s an imperfect adaptation but some of its imagery is unforgettable. And every list like this needs a few zombie movies.
Runtime: 1h 48m
Director: John Landis
One of the most influential comedies of all time, Animal House is also a great example of a flick in which the fun everyone was clearly having on set translated to the big screen. People forget how cheaply made this movie was and how most of the major players weren’t stars at the time. They were just a bunch of friends getting together to do something funny. And they made movie history.
Runtime: 1h 38m
Director: Michael Ritchie
One of Chevy Chase’s best screen performances came in the 1985 comedy based on the hit novels by Gregory McDonald. The character of a reporter nicknamed Fletch who gets drawn into an investigation after being asked to kill a millionaire is perfect for Chase, blending his physical comedy ability with that oversized ego.
Runtime: 2h 19m
Director: Rian Johnson
The writer/director of Knives Out returned in late 2022 with a sequel to that smash hit, exclusively on Netflix. Daniel Craig returns as Benoit Blanc, the casual crime solver who finds himself on a billionaire’s island in Rian Johnson’s latest comedy/mystery. Once again, Johnson assembles a murderer’s row of talent, including Kate Hudson, Janelle Monae, Ed Norton, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., and more. It’s smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining.
Runtime: 1h 51m
Director: Randal Kleiser
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John changed the course of the movie musical with the wildly beloved flick about the kids at Rydell High. Based on the 1971 stage musical of the same name, Grease was a massive hit, and still draws audiences to theaters and on cable over four decades after its release.
Runtime: 2h 3m
Director: Nora Ephron
The writer of so many rom-com classics profiled two women in this critical and commercial hit, Nora Ephron’s last before her death. It tells the dual stories of the world-famous chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and a NYC writer (Amy Adams) who sets out to cook every recipe in Child’s cookbook in a year, chronicling her journey on a popular blog.
Runtime: 1h 55m
Director: Gregory Jacobs
A massive hit at the theaters back when people went to the theaters, this middle chapter of what is now a trilogy with 2023’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance is a raucous, joyous time at the movies, but it’s also a bit underrated given its subject matter. It’s a smart movie that understood things about the gig economy and making it in any business before other films. It also features another great turn from Channing Tatum, a true movie star.
Runtime: 1h 29m
Director: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
During a hiatus between the third and fourth seasons of Monty Python’s Family Circus, the gang of mega-talented comedians decided to make movie history. Inspired by the King Arthur legend, Holy Grail is a timeless comedy, the rare kind of film that will still be making people laugh hundreds of years from now. And while the Monty Python boys were already famous, this film took them to another level, cementing their place in movie history.
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Mike Flanagan
Before he helmed The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan co-wrote and directed one of the best Netflix Original horror films in this adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name. Carla Gugino is phenomenal as a woman who gets handcuffed to her bed by her toxic husband…and then he has a heart attack. As she tries to figure out how she will survive, she accesses the trauma of her past.
Runtime: 1h 56m
Director: Guillermo del Toro
The Oscar-winning director took his visionary skills to stop-motion animation with this instant classic, a retelling of the beloved fairy tale about the wooden boy who longed to be real. With spectacular voice work, this version reimagines Pinocchio during the period before World War II, allowing del Toro to explore his themes of innocence and violence again. It’s a deeply personal, beautiful film.
Runtime: 1h 38m
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
One of the best Japanese filmmakers alive, Hosoda has earned fans with films like Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Belle. One of his best is this 2018 fantasy movie, which actually became the first non-Ghibli anime film to ever get nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It can be a little hard to follow, but it’s one of the most visually striking films on Netflix, or any streaming service.
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: Henry Selick
The director of A Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline finally returned this year with this clever and twisted tale co-written by Oscar winner Jordan Peele. The comedian also co-stars as one of the title characters, the literal demons for a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents. Selick is a master of stop-motion animation and this project allows him to stretch his visual prowess in new, gross ways. It’s a new Halloween classic (that can be watched any time, of course!)
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