The 35 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now
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If you’re looking for the best movies to watch on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve put together an expertly curated selection of some of the most exciting, compelling, emotional and funny movies currently streaming on Netflix. While it can be daunting thumbing through the streamer’s catalogue to find out what to watch, we’ve taken the guesswork and mindless scrolling out of it. This post will be frequently updated with new recommendations, keeping you up to date with all the Netflix movies you should be prioritizing in your queue.
So peruse our list of the best movies on Netflix right now below, and happy watching!
As Good As It Gets
James L. Brooks’ 1997 film “As Good As It Gets” is the most recent movie to win both the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars in the same year, and Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt’s leading performances hold up well. This romantic comedy revolves around an OCD and highly offensive novelist (played by Nicholson) who crosses paths with a single mother with an ill child (played by Hunt) who has no patience for his rudeness. This is the kind of plot-lite, character-rich story with which Brooks has excelled in the past (see: “Broadcast News” and “Terms of Endearment”).
David Fincher’s 2007 masterpiece “Zodiac” is ostensibly about the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in the Bay Area in the 1960s/70s, but it’s actually a movie about obsession. Jake Gyllenhaal plays cartoonist Robert Graysmith who closely follows the Zodiac case and becomes convinced he can crack it. Fincher keeps a master’s handle on tone and pacing as the film has some truly terrifying moments and delivers on the “hunt for a serial killer” aspect while also serving up a thematic meal. Gyllenhaal is terrific, and he’s flanked by a phenomenal ensemble cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny and Brian Cox.
If you’re in the mood for a mind-bending thriller, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster “Inception.” Written and directed by Nolan, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who is proficient in performing heists within the subconscious of individuals who are subdued. When he’s offered one last job in exchange for his freedom, he assembles a crew to perform a task thought near-impossible — planting an idea inside someone’s head. Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine co-star in this action-packed adventure with surprising emotional heft.
Coming-of-age movies are a dime a dozen, but “Lady Bird” stands among the best of the best. Writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film is a triumph of storytelling as it chronicles the journey of a smart high school senior (played by Saoirse Ronan) who struggles through various strained relationships as she prepares to go to college. Set in Sacramento, the film draws from Gerwig’s youth as it captures a wickedly relatable teen story that traverses the love, heartbreak and loss that come with growing up. The movie scored five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Ronan.
With only his third theatrically released feature film, Steven Spielberg just went ahead and made one of the greatest movies in cinematic history. 1975’s “Jaws” stands tall as a thrilling, emotional and supremely satisfying adventure all these years later, as it tells the story of a small summer resort town plagued by a man-eating great white shark. It’s up to Roy Scheider’s police chief, Richard Dreyfuss’ marine biologist and Robert Shaw’s crusty shark hunter to track the animal down and put an end to his reign of terror, but while “Jaws” is certainly a tense and terrifying horror film, Spielberg never loses sight of the humans at its core. It’s that attention to character and story that define Spielberg’s career and make “Jaws” a perfect movie.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can enjoy, the 2021 Netflix original “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is an emotional crowd-pleaser that’s as funny as it is inventive. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film follows a family going on a cross-country road trip to send their eldest daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to college, where she hopes to learn how to become a filmmaker. The family isn’t on the best terms when the road trip begins, which makes things even trickier when a robot uprising occurs, leaving the dysfunctional Mitchells as humanity’s last hope. This is a hilarious, colorful and heartfelt story about the importance of communication.
Netflix has a wide variety of documentaries to choose from, but Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film “13th” is a must-watch. The doc delves into mass incarceration in the United States, and how race and injustice intersect with the issue, through the prism of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolishes slavery except as punishment for a crime. Through a number of interviews, DuVernay examines why a disproportionate number of Black people are incarcerated in the U.S., and how the current justice system perpetuates this injustice.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
There’s nothing quite like the perfect “feel-good” movie, and if you’re looking for something in that vein, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will do the trick. This 1986 comedy hails from writer/director John Hughes and quite literally tells the story of a high school student named Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) who decides to play sick and skip school. He ropes his best friend and girlfriend into a day of free-wheeling fun and existential crises. The mix of comedy, wish-fulfillment and pathos are why this film has endured for over three decades.
Guillermo del Toro’s masterful “Pan’s Labyrinth” blends fantasy with reality in a compelling and thought-provoking way. Written and directed by del Toro, the story takes place in 1944 Spain, five years after the Spanish Civil War. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl who vacillates between a mystical and dangerous fantasy world she discovers on her property, and the real world in which her stepfather hunts down those who fight against his regime. It is a brutal and beautiful tale of fascism that perfectly blends the metaphorical with the literal.
Catch Me If You Can
One of Steven Spielberg’s very best films is the story of a compulsive liar who conned his way into being a lawyer, doctor and airplane pilot all before he was 19. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale, Jr., a charismatic and precocious teenager who runs away from home and cons his way around the world, and Tom Hanks is the dogged FBI agent hot on his trail. What makes this flighty film connect is the heartbreaking father-son story at its center, with Christopher Walken playing Abagnale’s father, whose approval and happiness the young Frank so desperately seeks. The film is a personal one for Spielberg, who as an older adult brings a different perspective than the “absent father” motif that prevailed in his earlier films.
If you’re in for a fright, James Wan’s 2013 horror hit “The Conjuring” is one of the scariest movies in years. The film is based on the real-life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and finds the two (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) called to a Rhode Island farmhouse where strange happenings point to a supernatural presence. The jump-scares in this one are above and beyond anything else in the entire “Conjuring” franchise.
The animation studio LAIKA has made a habit out of crafting gorgeous and heartfelt stop-motion animation films, and 2012’s “ParaNorman” might just be its best. This spook-tacular supernatural comedy follows a kid named Norman who has the ability to communicate with the dead – which just so happens to come in handy when his sleepy town is besieged by zombies as a result of a witch’s curse. There’s a wonderful “Goonies” vibe to the proceedings, but what sets this film apart is how it builds to a surprising and emotional conclusion that carries with it a vital message for kids everywhere.
School of Rock
Filmmaker Richard Linklater is best known for crafting humanistic indie dramas, but his 2003 film “School of Rock” finds the “Boyhood” director embracing a commercial premise while holding true to his values and unique qualities as a director. Jack Black stars as a down-on-his luck musician who’s just been kicked out of his band when he poses as his roommate in order to take on a substitute teaching gig. When he discovers most of his students are musically inclined, he sets about teaching them the history of rock music so he can start a new group and beat his old one in the town’s battle of the bands. Black is phenomenal in the lead role, and Joan Cusack is a scene-stealer as the prep school’s uptight principal.
One of the great things about Netflix is how it has a little bit of something for everyone, and in that vein, the YA-skewing “Enola Holmes” is a delight for the teenaged crowd (and beyond). Based on the young adult series of the same name by author Nancy Springer, the film stars Millie Bobby Brown as the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola leaves the safety of her home compound and ventures into London to try and solve this mystery. Along the way, however, Enola learns that her mother kept many secrets of her own. This is a rollicking mystery-adventure that’s also a sweet and substantial coming-of-age story, all wrapped up in a gorgeous 19th century Victorian package.
Set It Up
If you’re into romantic comedies, you simply must check out “Set It Up.” This Netflix original is a throwback in the best way, as Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have that Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks chemistry in a story about friends turning into lovers. They play overworked assistants to demanding bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) and hatch a plan to set their bosses up in an effort to earn more free time themselves. But their scheming puts them in frequent close contact, during which sparks fly.
Be prepared to take some bathroom breaks, because “Titanic” is long. But it’s a modern classic for a reason, and the film still holds up. Writer/director James Cameron’s epic tells the story of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 as told through the eyes of two strangers who meet on board: a wealthy 17-year-old woman (Kate Winslet) who’s due to marry someone she doesn’t love, and a poor young artist named Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) who won a third-class ticket on the ship during a poker game. The film runs over three hours in length but is thrilling and compelling throughout, serving as a sweeping romance and a tragic disaster movie all in one. “Titanic” won a historic 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Director.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before Taika Waititi took audiences by storm with “Thor: Ragnarok” and won an Oscar with “Jojo Rabbit,” he crafted a wonderfully whimsical comedy called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” The film stars Julian Dennison as a troubled youth who goes on the run with a cantankerous man (played by Sam Neill) when both are being hunted through a remote part of Australia. The film is packed with Waititi’s signature sense of humor and unique style, and Dennison and Neill make for one heck of a dynamic duo.
2013’s “About Time” may look like a typical rom-com, but fair warning: this movie will make you ugly cry. From writer/director Richard Curtis (“Love, Actually”), the film stars Domhnall Gleeson as a man who learns from his father (Bill Nighy) on his 21st birthday that the men in his family have the ability to time travel. This both complicates and accelerates a relationship he strikes up with a young woman (played by Rachel McAdams), but as the film goes on, it slowly reveals itself to be a heartbreaking father-son story, as the man’s father learns he doesn’t have much time left to live.
There Will Be Blood
Nobody does intense dramas quite like Paul Thomas Anderson, and his 2007 film “There Will Be Blood” is one of his best. In an Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a prospector named Daniel Plainview who aggressively expands his early 20th century oil-drilling operation to an area near a local church. He comes into conflict with the local preacher, played by Paul Dano, and struggles to reconcile his business ambitions with his humanity.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
The Netflix original comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is not just an incredibly funny film, it’s a surprisingly emotional one too. Based on an original idea by Will Ferrell, the “Elf” actor stars as one half of an Icelandic duo alongside Rachel McAdams, both of whom are thrust into the spotlight when they’re unexpectedly selected to compete in the international singing competition Eurovision. The film is packed with some genuinely great songs, and a sweet story about staying true to your roots in the face of immense growth.
Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic “Gladiator” took the Oscars by storm, winning Best Picture and Best Actor among others, and it still holds up as a tremendously exciting historical drama. Set in 180 AD, Russell Crowe stars as a Hispano-Roman general who is betrayed and forced into hiding following the murder of his family. He finds himself conscripted to become a gladiator, fighting to the death for the amusement of audiences, and eventually makes his way back to Rome where he comes face to face with the emperor who betrayed him. Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed and Djimon Hounsou round out a terrific ensemble cast.
The Fear Street Trilogy
Everyone loves a good scare, but the “Fear Street” trilogy gives you three times the thrills for the price of one overarching story. These three interconnected films trace the origins of a witch’s curse on a small town, covering events in 1994 in the “Scream”-inspired first film, then heading back to 1978 for the summer camp slasher sequel, before concluding in the year 1666 for the third and final feature that reveals the origin story of the Shadyside witch. Colorful, fun and genuinely scary, the “Fear Street” trilogy tells a truly epic horror story.
The Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is full of surprises. While the film begins by chronicling Swift’s career, complete with the ups and downs it encompassed, it soon morphs into the origin story of a feminist as Swift begins to speak out on socio-political issues important to her. It’s a fascinating window into the management of fame, as some around her caution against making any kinds of political statements for fear of alienating her fanbase. Swift is honest throughout – or as honest as a documentary like this can be – and the film doesn’t shy away from tough moments like Kanye West infamously interrupting her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
The most successful film of his career thus far, “Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino through and through. This original Western is set just before the official outbreak of the Civil War and stars Jamie Foxx as Django, an escaped slave who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz in an Oscar-winning role) to rescue his kidnapped wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). This is a Western epic as only Tarantino can tell it, complete with gratuitous violence and a darkly humorous streak running throughout, all while the film doesn’t shy away from laying bare the horrors of slavery.
“Superbad” understandably gets most of the attention, but writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s second film, “Pineapple Express,” is just as funny. This ’80s-inspired stoner action comedy essentially introduces a scenario in which the two main characters in an action movie are high the entire time. Rogen plays a process server who goes on the run with his drug dealer (James Franco) after he witnesses a murder, leading to shenanigans aplenty. Danny McBride, Amber Heard, Gary Cole and Rosie Perez co-star.
Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour-and-40-minute gangster epic “The Irishman” is best viewed in one sitting – trust me. The brilliance of the film is in its construction, as Scorsese charts the career of a hitman for the mob from the 1950s up to the present day. But unlike the bombast of “Goodfellas,” this is a film where regret and grief hang over nearly every frame, subtly building until the mournful third act hits you like a ton of bricks. Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran spends his entire life killing people, and what does it all add up to? Scorsese gets downright philosophical with questions of morality and mortality, crafting a self-reflexive film about what it means to come to the end of your life and look back on what you’ve done, why you did it and whether it was all worth it in the end.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Fun for the whole family, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is one of the best animated films of the 21st century so far. This colorful and hilarious story hails from “21 Jump Street” and “The LEGO Movie” filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller and follows a scientist named Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) who accidentally invents a machine that rains food on his small island town of Swallow Falls. What begins as a delightful treat soon turns into a full-on disaster movie. Puns and jokes abound, but as with all Lord and Miller projects, this film also has a sweet heart at its center.
Before director Bong Joon Ho made Oscar history with “Parasite,” he tackled class systems in the sci-fi dystopian thriller “Snowpiercer.” The film takes place after an attempt to stop global warming descended the planet into an uninhabitable ice age, and the last survivors live on a train that circles the globe. The train is divided into sections, with the highest-class passengers in the front and the lowest-class ones at the back. Chris Evans plays a man living at the back of the train who helps lead an uprising that finds these “lower class” citizens taking over the train one car at a time.
Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a great comedic talent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his best dramatic acting chops thus far are exemplified in the 2013 film “Rush.” Directed by Ron Howard, this biographical sports drama stars Hemsworth as British Formula 1 driver James Hunt and chronicles his 1970s rivalry with Austrian driver Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl). The racing scenes are absolutely thrilling, and the story lays bare these drivers’ determination while also delving into what drives each of them to compete.
One of Netflix’s most popular and esteemed original series is “The Crown,” but if you want a truncated preview of that vibe, check out “The Queen.” Written by “The Crown” creator Peter Morgan, “The Queen” stars Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and takes place in the immediate wake of Princess Diana’s death, as the Royal Family’s response was criticized by the public and media. Mirren won an Oscar for her nuanced portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, and Michael Sheen is excellent as Prime Minister Tony Blair.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
One of the best animated film series in recent memory is the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy, and while Netflix only has the second movie available to stream, it’s well worth your time regardless of whether you’re familiar with the franchise or not. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” picks up five years after the young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has convinced his Viking brethren to make peace with dragons instead of fear them, and the story finds Hiccup warding off a gang of dragon trappers while stumbling across his long-lost mother. As with every film in this series, “HTTYD 2” is full of emotion and compassion – make sure tissues are handy.
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror movie, but it’s a great watch for Spooky Season (or any time of year) regardless. Guillermo del Toro’s original story is a Gothic romance through and through, as Mia Wasikowska stars as a budding author living in 1900s New York who marries a kind yet mysterious man (Tom Hiddleston) and then moves into the decrepit mansion he shares with his sister (Jessica Chastain). When she arrives at the mansion, however, Wasikowska’s character discovers it’s full of secrets and ghosts. While the film is creepy, it’s not a full-on scare-fest – nor is it trying to be one. This is a sorrowful, ghastly story of love and what happens when our past won’t let go.
If you’re looking to watch a movie with the kids that you as a parent will also find engaging and smart, check out “Rango.” The 2011 film hails from “Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski and is a gorgeous ode to the Western genre as it follows a pet chameleon who gets lost in the desert and stumbles upon a town in dire need of protecting. He poses as a tough sheriff, but is in over his head when bandits arrive. This features some truly stunning animation and an inspired, hilarious story. It’s no wonder it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
One of the funniest movies of the 21st century so far, “Step Brothers” is juvenile and brilliant in equal measure. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play two grown men still living with their single parents who are forced to live together as step brothers when their parents get married. What begins as a rivalry soon turns into camaraderie as these two struggle through arrested development. Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins co-star.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee is not known for making bland films, and indeed his 2020 Vietnam veterans drama “Da 5 Bloods” is confrontational in the best way. The story revolves around four aging Vietnam War veterans who return to the Southeast Asian country to search for the remains of their fallen leader — and also a trove of buried treasure. Along the way they confront their own fears and differences, as Lee’s film delves into how America left an entire generation of soldiers behind.
Netflix is host to a ton of great documentaries, including “Crip Camp.” This Oscar-nominated 2020 film begins by showcasing archival footage from a camp in the 1970s that was created for teens with disabilities, before then following various individuals as they fought for disability rights. It’s a moving portrait of activism that shows just how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we have left to go.
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