What are the best movies on Netflix? That’s not an easy question to answer which is why there are some two dozen odd favourites in this list. They feature the likes of Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Brie Larson, Amy Adams, Irrfan Khan, Keanu Reeves, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, and Liam Neeson. And they come from directors such as Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Rima Das, Meghna Gulzar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Joel and Ethan Coen, Denis Villeneuve, Paul Greengrass, Hayao Miyazaki, Paweł Pawlikowski, Andrey Zvyagintsev, and Alfonso Cuarón.
Of course, this list cannot possibly cover everything. And that’s why we have separate recommendations for some select genres that you should also check out.
- Arrival (2016)
Amy Adams plays a professor of comparative linguistics in this alien first-contact film from Denis Villeneuve, which explores free-will, experiences, memory, and destiny, and masterfully delivers both personal and global messages. Jeremy Renner co-stars.
- The Bourne trilogy (2002–07)
Technically not a trilogy, but the first three chapters — Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum — starring Matt Damon in the lead as the titular CIA assassin suffering from amnesia were so good that they changed the longest-running spy franchise of all-time: James Bond.
- Bulbul Can Sing (2019)
Three teenagers battle patriarchy and the moral police as they explore their sexual identities in Rima Das’s National Award-winning drama — and pay for it dearly. Das writes, directs, shoots, edits, and handles costumes.
- Cold War (2018)
Jumping either side of the Iron Curtain through the late 1940s to the 1960s, Oscar-winner Paweł Pawlikowski depicts the story of two star-crossed lovers (Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot), as they deal with Stalinism, rejection, jealousy, change, time — and their own temperaments.
- The Dark Knight (2008)
In the second part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, regarded as the greatest comic book movie ever, Batman (Christian Bale) faces a villain, the Joker (Heath Ledger), he doesn’t understand, and must go through hell to save Gotham and its people.
- Dheepan (2015)
Winner of Cannes’ top prize, three Sri Lankan refugees — including a Tamil Tiger soldier — pretend to be a family to gain asylum in France, where they soon realise that life isn’t very different in the rough neighbourhoods. Jacques Audiard directs.
- Inception (2010)
From the mind of Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a thief who has the power to enter other’s dreams and steal their ideas, and is then given the mission of his life if he wants to be reunited with his family. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy co-star.
- Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In Nazi-occupied WWII France, a young cinema owner (Mélanie Laurent) and a group of soldiers (Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender among them) inadvertently cook up parallel plot to assassinate the Nazi Germany leadership. The 17-minute opening scene is a highlight of this Quentin Tarantino flick.
- La La Land (2016)
A barista and aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) meet and fall in love in Los Angeles in this musical that won both Stone and writer-director Damien Chazelle an Oscar. It’s uplifting, endlessly charming, and heartbreaking.
- Loveless (2017)
A Cannes winner about the social ills of life in modern Russia, told through the eyes of two separated parents (Maryana Spivak and Aleksey Rozin) who are drawn back together after their 12-year-old child goes missing. From award-winning director Andrey Zvyagintsev.
- The Lunchbox (2013)
An unlikely mistake by Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox carrier system results in an unusual friendship between a young housewife (Nimrat Kaur) and an older widower (Irrfan Khan) about to retire from his job. Ritesh Batra writes and directs.
- Marriage Story (2019)
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play an entertainment industry couple going through a divorce, which pulls them — and their young son — from New York to Los Angeles, the two different hometowns of the protagonists. A Netflix original, from Noah Baumbach.
- The Matrix (1999)
A computer hacker (Keanu Reeves) starts to question the nature of his reality in the Wachowskis’ seminal work, and with help from a group of rebels (Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss), he begins the fight against the machines that now rule the world.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The legendary British comedy troupe mix their talents with the tale of King Arthur and his knights, as they look for the Holy Grail and encounter a series of horrors. A contender for the best comedy of all-time.
- Nightcrawler (2014)
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a freelance video journalist with no ethics or morals who will do anything to get the best footage of violent crimes that local news stations love. A feature directorial debut for screenwriter Dan Gilroy.
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
In what is considered the best film made by the Coen brothers, a welder and Vietnam War veteran (Josh Brolin) is hunted by a hitman (Javier Bardem) after he runs away with drug deal money that he stumbled upon. Told by an aging sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) investigating the hitman’s exploits.
- The Prestige (2006)
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are rival magicians in late 19th-century London who are obsessed with creating the best stage illusion, in what some consider Christopher Nolan’s best movie, and a metaphor for the art of filmmaking itself.
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
Set in a fantastical version of 14th-century Japan, the last prince of a rural tribe ventures out to find a cure for an infection that’s slowly killing him; and encounters a giant wolf goddess and her titular human companion — “mononoke” is Japanese for spirit/ monster. An environmental fable that warns of the dangers of industrialisation. Hayao Miyazaki writes and directs.
- Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuarón revisits his childhood in the eponymous Mexico City neighbourhood, during the political turmoil of the 1970s, through the eyes of a middle-class family’s live-in maid, who takes care of the house and four children, while balancing the complications of her own personal life. A Netflix original.
- Room (2015)
Having been born in captivity, a five-year-old boy (Jacob Tremblay) gets to experience the outside world after a miraculous escape thanks to his mother (Brie Larson), who must deal with her own monsters after getting out. Larson won the Oscar and BAFTA for best actress. Based on writer Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name.
- Schindler’s List (1993)
After witnessing the persecution of his Jewish employees in German-occupied Poland during World War II, an industrialist and member of the Nazi party (Liam Neeson) saves them from concentration camps by spending everything he has in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of an Australian novel. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley co-star.
- Shoplifters (2018)
Winner of the top prize at Cannes, the story of a group of poverty-stricken outsiders scraping together an under-the-radar living in Tokyo, whose life is upended after they take in a new, young member. Hirokazu Kore-eda writes, directs, and edits.
- Spirited Away (2001)
The only non-English-language film to win the Oscar for best animated movie is about a 10-year-old girl called Chihiro who wanders into the spirit world with her parents, where the elders are turned into giant pigs. Chihiro then must work in a bathhouse to discover a way to return to the human world. Hayao Miyazaki writes and directs.
- Talvar (2015)
Meghna Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj combine forces to tell the story of the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl and the family’s hired servant were killed, and the inept police bungled the investigation. Uses the Rashomon effect for a three-pronged take. Irrfan Khan stars.
- Wadjda (2012)
The first feature-length effort from a female Saudi director (Haifaa al-Mansour) and shot entirely in her home country — cinemas were banned in Saudia Arabia when this was made — tackles a young girl’s (Waad Mohammed) quest for a little freedom in a heavily-patriarchal society, as she tries to win a Quran recital competition and buy a bicycle for herself.
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