The seemingly infinite options on Netflix can make it easy to browse endlessly without ever actually settling on something to watch. Even Netflix itself makes it hard to keep up, adding and removing new content every month to keep the selection fresh.
The good news is that we’ve put together a list of the very best movies on Netflix right now. Animated or live action, drama or comedy, no matter what you’re looking for, there’s something on this list for you. And even if you’re not looking for anything in particular, every movie here will be well worth your time.
For more recommendations, read our lists of underrated movies on streaming, the best horror movies on Netflix, and the best movies of 2019 (so far).
American Psycho (2000)
In the years since its polarizing release, this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel has become a cult classic, growing into one of the sharpest dissections of ’80s America as well as a film-meme force to be reckoned with. Featuring an all-star line-up of Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Justin Theroux, Jared Leto, and Reese Witherspoon, Mary Harron’s thriller boasts one of Christian Bale’s best performances as New York investment banker Patrick Bateman. The film’s take on ’80s culture and Wall Street greed takes on an extra dimension given Bateman’s double life as a serial killer, and uncertainty as to exactly what we’re meant to believe.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Coens’ fascination with the West reaches a fever pitch with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which traverses both the landscape and the genre through six distinct chapters that each addresses a different storytelling tradition. Though the styles and tones of the chapters vary, they form a coherent whole as a meditation on mortality, beginning with a singing cowboy (Tim Blake Nelson) shooting his way through a saloon, and ending with a carriage transporting its passengers beyond the veil.
That final chapter’s sense of wide-eyed mystery hints at how to process the way the Coens’ chapters veer into the bleak and macabre. It’s a lovingly crafted film, and for all that their characters may sometimes tear each other apart, the Coens love each and every one of them, too.
Black Panther (2018)
What can we say? Of all the Marvel movies added to Netflix since Disney struck a licensing deal, Ryan Coogler’s political odyssey is the one we keep revisiting. Since the Disney Plus streaming service will soon snatch it away, we’ll bang the drum for Chadwick Boseman’s model hero T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan’s sympathetic-yet-brutal Killmonger, Danai Gurira’s breakout badassery as Okoye, and of course, Letitia Wright’s Shuri, who needs a screen-time promotion in Avengers 4. More big-budget afrofuturism, please.
Burn After Reading (2008)
What may just be the Coen brothers’ meanest film is available to watch on Netflix, and more uncomfortably topical than ever. When a draft of a disgruntled former CIA analyst’s (John Malkovich) memoir accidentally falls into the hands of two gym employees (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt), chaos ensues, involving spies, Russians, and utter cluelessness on the part of the government. Stressful though the increasingly deadly hijinks are, the film is worth watching at least for Pitt’s perfectly pitched comic performance.
A sense of frustration suffuses every part of Lee Chang-dong’s hypnotic adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning.” Focusing on would-be writer Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), who finds his listlessness interrupted first by the appearance of his childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), and then her charismatic friend, Ben (Steven Yeun), Burning unfolds at an almost maddeningly deliberate pace as Lee tangles with class, country, and everything in-between, and turns the three-way relationship into the seed of a mystery-thriller. With a conclusion that could be interpreted in a million different ways — and stunning performances from the three leads, particularly Yeun, who proves utterly unreadable — it’s a film that’s impossible to shake.
Even if you haven’t seen Brian De Palma’s Carrie, you’ve probably seen at least a still from its most infamous, bloody scene. Widely regarded as one of the best horror movies all time (and the very first adaptation of Stephen King’s work, which feels inconceivable given how proliferate adaptations of the horror icon’s work are now), Carrie turns up the dial on mundane, domestic experiences. De Palma knows just how scary seeming everyday things — high school, getting your first period — can be, and winds it all into a tale of outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), whose abuse at the hands of her religious mother and her classmates lead to an unforgettable prom night.
The Cell (2000)
Tarsem Singh’s directorial debut remains one of the most visually striking films of all time. A blend of science fiction and horror, the movie pits Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D’Onofrio against each other as a child psychologist and a serial killer who do battle in the killer’s mind. The dreamscapes Singh conjures up as imagination becomes king is equal parts mesmerizing and terrifying, including a horse that’s been cut into layers, and D’Onofrio dressed like a mockery of an Elizabethan queen.
Even a decade later, stop-motion studio Laika’s very first feature film, Coraline, is a marvel. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, the film follows a young girl named Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning). Her family has just moved across the country, and she’s having trouble adjusting to the jump, a task that doesn’t get any easier as eerie magical influences start creeping into her life. Queen among the new influences in Coraline’s life is Other Mother (Teri Hatcher), a doppelgänger of her actual mother who just so happens to sport buttons for eyes.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the rare film that deserves to be called “epic.” Nominated for 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film), the movie is peerless as a love story (well, two love stories) and a wuxia gem, and a showcase for not only the cast (Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh) but for Lee’s gorgeous direction. As the characters fly in combat, so too does the camera, taking the audience right along with it.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
If True Grit weren’t enough to prove Hailee Steinfeld one of the best actresses of her generation, then The Edge of Seventeen should do the trick. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the coming-of-age film doesn’t play down just how selfish its protagonist (Steinfeld) can be, but doesn’t punish her for it, either. Her life is in adolescent free fall — her brother (Blake Jenner) has started dating her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson), and her closest confidant is her teacher (Woody Harrelson).
Gangs of New York (2002)
Martin Scorsese’s period epic clocks in at 168 minutes, but barely feels it — it’s an adrenaline rush from top to bottom as Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) works to avenge the murder of his father (Liam Neeson) at the hands of Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). Filled from top to bottom with the character actors you know and love (Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Graham, Eddie Marsan), the film weaves a rich tapestry around a classic tale of revenge, as well as serving as a monumental recreation of New York in the mid-1800s.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film is a brutal one, but so is its subject matter. The Hateful Eight, set shortly after the Civil War, is a rebuke of the way America’s past is often romanticized, using a group of strangers trapped in a cabin by a snow storm as a way of tearing apart the country’s past — and its effect on contemporary America — as well as acknowledging the tenets that are constantly cited when referring to “the land of the free.” As bloody as the film is, it’s ultimately more bittersweet than bitter.
The caustic satire of high school life, which finds two teenagers (Winona Ryder and Christian Slater) gunning down students and nearly blowing up a pep rally with dynamite, probably wouldn’t fly today (the hyper-controversial TV remake being the best evidence). But in 1988, when school violence wasn’t a weekly occurrence, Daniel Waters’ black comedy was like an anti-John Hughes movie, done with enough of a wink that the exaggerated violence is all part of the joke. Plus, Ryder is a joy.
Hell or High Water (2016)
The enduring cultural fascination with the Western is perhaps best illustrated by David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water. Though set in the 21st century, the film deals with the same themes as the best revisionist Westerns, floating the faint suggestion that not so much has actually changed since the West was wild. As two Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham) pursue a pair of brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), Taylor Sheridan’s script weaves in American economic decline and race relations, as well as the classic antihero question of good ends justifying bad means.
In Order of Disappearance (2014)
The 2014 Norwegian black comedy In Order of Disappearance is much stranger than the fact that it was remade with Liam Neeson would suggest. Stellan Skarsgård stars as Nils Dickman, a mild-mannered snow plow driver who takes matters into his own hands when his son turns up dead. The police tell him it’s a heroin overdose, but he knows better. Armed with his snow plow and sheer willpower, he sets off making the local gangsters’ lives hell in order to uncover the truth.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Voted the best Tarantino movie by Polygon’s staff, Inglourious Basterds marks the director’s first venture into revisionist history, as he sends a squad of American soldiers to kill Adolf Hitler. Multiple storylines — structured into chapters — tie the whole thing together, featuring a verbose SS colonel (played by Christoph Waltz in an Oscar-winning performance), a Jewish woman running a movie theater, and, of course, the titular Basterds. It’s a testament to Tarantino’s talent that the film’s best scene revolves around a simple game being played in a tavern; the tension mounts until it’s unbearable, then exploding into Tarantino’s trademark over-the-top violence.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Documentaries tend to have a harder time breaking into pop culture than most other genres of movies, but Jiro Dreams of Sushi managed to make waves, spawning an episode of Documentary Now! as well as prompting former President Barack Obama to visit Jiro Ono’s restaurant. Ono, now 93 years old, owns the sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, which only has ten seats but still boasts three Michelin stars. The documentary serves as a profile of Ono as well as his two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs and must contend with their father’s shadow.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
There’s just the thinnest thread of plot holding Kung Fu Hustle together, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most exhilaratingly fun films ever made. (And, yes, there are two Stephen Chow films currently on this list.) Set in a crowded apartment complex known as Pig Sty Alley, Kung Fu Hustle is mostly just an excuse to construct the most outrageous fight scenes possible. Just when it seems like the kung fu mastery the characters wield can’t get any more colorful, another kung fu master is revealed to take things to the next level.
The Lives of Others (2006)
The 2006 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others focuses on Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), who is assigned to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend in 1984, in the thick of the Cold War. As his surveillance continues, he finds it increasingly difficult to detach his own emotions from the case. A remarkable portrait of a state that no longer exists, the film ramps up tension through meticulous plotting and deep investment in the emotional torment of its cast.
The Lobster (2015)
Bringing a new dimension to “Netflix and chill” is Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, which takes place in a universe in which people must be romantically paired up (based on shared traits or interests) within 45 days or else be turned into an animal. The lengths that the characters go to in order to secure their respective futures range from comedic to horrific (sometimes both), with their delivery just as deadpan as we’ve come to expect from Lanthimos’ work.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Guy Ritchie’s first film, which centers on a group of friends who decide to rob a gang in order to pay off a debt incurred while playing cards, is lean and sprawling at the same time. Multiple characters weave in and out of the narrative, which crescendos to a remarkably simple conclusion as the disparate elements of the film all finally wind together. The crime caper was Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones’ introduction to the film world as well, and remains the standard to which the rest of Ritchie’s films are held.
The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (2019)
For anyone mourning the lack of a Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping sequel, there’s The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, a half-hour delight that bills itself as a “visual poem” by baseball stars Jose Canseco (Andy Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Akiva Schaffer). With guest appearances from Sterling K. Brown, Maya Rudolph, and even the Haim sisters, the film is an unmitigated delight, and evidence of the way The Lonely Island just keep getting better and better.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
In 2004, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was nominated for and then went on to win 11 Oscars, tying it with Ben-Hur and Titanic for most Oscars won by a single film and making it the highest clean-sweep winner. The Oscars ceremony it swept was maybe the best day of my life; even if I never reach that pinnacle of joy ever again, I can at least re-live a small fraction of it by rewatching it on Netflix. The final installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, which sees the fate of the world fall into one hobbit’s hands, remains a masterpiece.
Men in Black (1997)
The late ’90s and early 2000s marked something of a golden age for action movies, specifically action comedies, and Men in Black is one of the best of the bunch. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make the perfect odd couple as agents in a secret organization responsible for monitoring all alien activity on Earth, and Vincent D’Onofrio delivers one of the greatest physical performances of all time as an alien stuck in an increasingly decaying human body. We give this two slightly floppy Edgar Suit thumbs up.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Every Monty Python film on Netflix is worth watching, but arguably the most famous of the bunch is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The comedy group’s take on the tale of King Arthur and his knights sees all six members of the Flying Circus taking on multiple roles as the characters are pit against deadly rabbits, French mockery, and a W. G. Grace-faced God. Often cited as one of the greatest comedies of all time, the film serves as a perfect watch for anyone with a fondness for Arthurian myths, for sketch comedy, for hand-drawn sketches, or simply looking for an introduction to one of the greatest comedy groups of all time.
There’s no amount of hyperbole that could do justice to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, purely because it’s a film so great that it defies hyperbole completely. Told in three chapters, the film follows a man though his childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, with Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes playing him at those respective stages of his life. Each snapshot paints a fuller picture of the effects of the physical and emotional abuse he’s subjected to, as well as societal and cultural expectations for black men. Aided by a beautiful score by Nicholas Britell, Jenkins crafts one of the tenderest films in recent memory — rewarded justly by a Best Picture win, making it the first film with an all-black cast to win the award.
The tale of a girl and her super-pig, Okja is warm — and wild — at heart. As Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) sets out to save her super-pig, Okja, from the corporate clutches that whisk her away from her, director Bong Joon-ho pulls off thrilling action sequences and social commentary in equal measure, all the while maintaining sight of the fact that it’s love that anchors the film. With asides that specifically channel the film’s pedigree as a South Korean-American production, it’s utterly unique — as is its central character. Viewer beware: The movie may make you a vegetarian if you aren’t already.
Personal Shopper (2016)
It’s tempting to call Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper a horror film given the way it dips its toe into the supernatural and possibly malevolent, but it’s more an exploration of grief, carried off by a magnificent Kristen Stewart. When Maureen’s (Stewart) brother dies, her duties as a personal shopper begin to take on a strange extra dimension as she attempts to contact his spirit, as they had promised to give each other signs of life after death should one pass away before the other.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Yes, all of Quentin Tarantino are worth recommending! It’s just the truth. The director’s second film is a thrilling whirlwind, with three stories intertwining in a non-chronological mix of sharp dialogue, and over-the-top action. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson star as hitmen whose task to retrieve a briefcase turns into a dive down a rabbit hole of drugs and violence. Uma Thurman co-stars as Mia Wallace, arguably the most recognizable character in the film, along with Tarantino stalwarts Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth, and Christopher Walken and Bruce Willis.
Raging Bull (1980)
Adapted from boxer Jake LaMotta’s memoir, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull stars Robert De Niro (who gained 60 pounds for the role) as LaMotta, who self-destructs over the course over two decades. The film, shot in black and white, chronicles his rise to middleweight champ and fall to would-be stand-up comedian, with Joe Pesci co-starring (in his first major role) as LaMotta’s brother. De Niro won an Oscar for his performance, one of the actor’s most fearsome in a career built on fearsome characters.
Rocky, the tale of a working-class, small-time club fighter who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship, is perfect in its simplicity, boasting what is arguably Sylvester Stallone’s best performance as the titular boxer. He’s sweet in a way that his chosen profession isn’t, and though a few scenes in the beginning of his romance with Adrian (Talia Shire) haven’t aged particularly well, their relationship is still tremendously affecting, especially in the film’s iconic (and subversive, when it comes to sports movies) finale.
Roma has semi-autobiographical roots in the life of its director, Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), and that intense personal connection is one that’s tangible throughout the film. At the center of the story is Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, in one of the year’s most stunning performances), a young domestic worker living with a family in flux.
Set in Mexico in the ’70s and shot in black and white, the film builds almost imperceptibly towards the finale, giving all the more weight and impact as the emotional dam finally breaks. The initial sense of detachment that Cuarón’s careful curation of images lends the film is a smokescreen for the flood that’s to come.
A Serious Man (2009)
The Coen brothers have made so many good movies, but they have their underrated entries in their oeuvre. A Serious Man has largely gone under the radar despite Michael Stuhlbarg’s incredible performance as Larry Gopnik. A Jewish man living in Minnesota, Gopnik begins to question his faith as his life begins to crumble down around his ears. The Coens bring their trademark facility for mixing despair and humor to Gopnik’s struggle, turning what could be just another midlife crisis drama into a tale of earthly and divine reckoning.
Schindler’s List (1993)
During the Holocaust, German businessman Oskar Schindler managed to save over a thousand refugees by employing them in his factories. Though the idea of making a film about the events was first floated by Steven Spielberg in the ’80s, it took another decade (and several attempts at passing the script to other directors) for Spielberg to finally feel ready to take the project on. The resulting work is intensely affecting, and shockingly so for a filmmaker who had been known, up until that point, for fun. Though some have accused Spielberg of succumbing to more maudlin tendencies in the film’s conclusion, it remains an inarguably great film.
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Before rattling the mainstream with Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee knocked out this shoestring-budget indie that, while rough around the edges, proved he was one of the most important voices of his generation. Nola Darling is a sexually liberated African American artist navigating her Brooklyn life as she sees fit. She entertains three different relationships and values her independence. Not everyone cares for it. Some try to change her. The movie starts out as a straight comedy before stepping it back into something more poignant. The push and pull of male forces on Nola illuminates her complexity. It’s no surprise Lee would eventually adapt She’s Gotta Have It into a fleshed out, polished series for Netflix, but this raw attempt at storytelling works in its own unique right.
Shirkers is the kind of movie that, if you’ve ever had any creative aspirations in your life at all, will stop your breath. The documentary, made by Sandi Tan, relates the creation — and loss — of a movie that Tan shot as a young woman. It might have been Singapore’s first independent film if not for the man she considered her mentor, who disappeared with all of the footage. The glimpse we get of what might have been is just as affecting as the documentary’s look at how that experience still affects the people who lived through it, today.
Short Term 12 (2013)
Short Term 12 is a remarkable capsule in two senses. First, it’s a realistic, intimate look at life in a group home for troubled teenagers, tackling themes of abuse and the difficulties of growing up without ever becoming saccharine or otherwise unbelievable. Second, it stars an unbelievable number of actors right before they got famous, from Brie Larson to Rami Malek to Stephanie Beatriz. Larson, in her first leading role, plays the supervisor of the home, whose attempts at doing the best by the teenagers under her care and opening up emotionally to her boyfriend serve as the backbone for the film’s story.
Slow West (2018)
Slow West lives up to its title as an unusually thoughtful, slow-paced Western. When Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leaves Scotland for America to search for the girl he loves, he quickly gets more than he bargained for, and employs a bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) for protection. The further west the pair goes, the more the film ping-pongs between humor and tragedy, peace and violence, with the only constant being Jay’s conviction to find his sweetheart (who, we are told from the outset, doesn’t quite care for him in the same way). It’s a off-kilter film, and a welcome breath of fresh air in an old genre.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Doing something new in the realm of superhero movies is nigh impossible, and yet Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has pulled it off. The film, which stars the Miles Morales version of the wall-crawling hero (as well as numerous other iterations of him from other Spider-verses, hence the film’s title), is a bright, innovative delight, harnessing a visual style that hasn’t been seen before to tell a story that, despite treading some of the same ground, feels equally fresh.
With appearances from the likes of Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir, as well as a look into the parts of New York that haven’t yet been seen in other Spider-Man films, Into the Spider-Verse turns what could be a relatively rote story (characters from one dimension get stuck in another, and must work together in order to get home) into a mesmerizing blend of comedy, action and drama. The film is also keenly aware of the comic book history it’s pulling from, and builds some of its best gags off the way Spider-Man has become a staple of pop culture.
Stardust is one of the most unabashedly sweet fantasies of the last few decades. When Tristan (Charlie Cox) goes to retrieve a fallen star in order to impress the woman he loves, he finds that the star has taken human form (Claire Danes). Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who’s after her, and in the ensuing chaos, he finds himself caught between witches, princes and air pirates as everyone vies for the (literal) heart of the star. Adventure and romance ensue, as does an all-around good time.
Swiss Army Man (2016)
Hearts and farts power the bizarre comedy Swiss Army Man, which pairs up Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe as a man and the corpse that, as they spend more time together, slowly seems to be coming back to life. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the film is about as disarming as films get, following each new odd turn with an even odder one. The only thing you can be sure of is that there’ll still be a lot of farting, right up to the film’s conclusion.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver was controversial at the time of its release and remains somewhat so now, as movies such as Joker pull from it for inspiration and antihero Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is regarded by some as an emblem. Bickle, a Vietnam veteran and a taxi driver suffering from chronic insomnia, becomes increasingly unhinged as he plans to assassinate a presidential candidate as well as free a young prostitute from her current way of life. Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, it remains a staple of pop culture, from the mohawk Bickle adopts towards the end of the film to his, “You talkin’ to me?” speech.
Train to Busan (2016)
Imagine if, instead of eating cockroaches and warding off ax-wielding thugs on their way to the 1-percenter front carriage, the passengers aboard the Snowpiercer train warded off zombies. OK, OK, stop imagining: Train to Busan is better than anything you’ll come up with. Propulsive, bloody and glimmering with the dark whimsy particular to Korean cinema, animator-turned-live-action-director Yeon Sang-ho’s take on the zombie apocalypse wears its heart on its sleeve ... until the flesh-eating undead tear the heart to shreds. It’s a father-daughter story. It’s a husband-wife story. It’s a who-deserves-to-live-and-die survivor narrative. It’s a people story trapped in a high-speed rail train, where the only hope of escape is a well-timed leap into the baggage shelf. It’s a hell of a movie.
Equal parts black comedy, crime, and coming-of-age film, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting follows a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh doing their best simply to survive from day to day. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Kelly Macdonald (in her debut) star, with Robert Carlyle turning in one of his most terrifying performances as the aggressive Begbie. A stark picture of addiction as well as poverty, and the sometimes-inescapable call of home.
The Witch (2015)
Some of the most interesting films of the last decade have come out of the horror genre. Among them is Robert Eggers’ The Witch, which pits a Separatist family against a mysterious evil. When a baby suddenly vanishes, fear and resentment begin to bubble up within the family. Is the eldest daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy) actually susceptible to witchcraft? Does the goat, Black Phillip, have ties to the Devil? There’s only one way to find out.