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Spike Lee with mouth agape in Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing
Image: Universal Pictures

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25 of the best movies on Netflix right now

From intergalactic bluegrass music comedies to time-tested classics. Plus, BABIES!

What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable recommendations algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind when really what you want are the good movies. No… the best movies.

We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in September, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from taut thrillers to eccentric comedies to newly minted classics. We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.


The American

george clooney runs up stairs in rome in The American Photo: Focus Features

In 2010, George Clooney starred as an aging man with a gun who was ready to hang up his scope. Very few people saw the movie, and based on the movie’s “D-” Cinemascore in exit polls, those who did were caught off guard. Instead of a slick, Bourne-esque espionage thriller, The American was a Euro-mood piece in which photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn descended deeper and deeper into Clooney’s ice-cold gaze. Set in Rome, the film is steamy and noir-ish, finding exhilaration in the assassin’s attempts to complete one last job with as little emotion as possible. But for all the seriousness and atmosphere, there’s still a pulpy, page-turner quality to the film’s second half — think of the whole package as Bond for the art house crowd. —Matt Patches


At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate Photo: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Julian Schnabel’s 2018 biographical drama stars Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, following the late Impressionist master in the final years of his life as he struggles with aspersions towards his artistic career and ability as well as his own tortured psyche. Named for van Gogh’s 1890 painting, At Eternity’s Gate is a dreamlike work of art, diving into the painter’s point of view as the picture violently spasms and shakes as his life becomes increasingly more dire. Dafoe’s performance was celebrated at the time of the film’s release, earning him his fourth Oscar nomination at the 91st Academy Awards. —TE



Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Rick Deckard trains his service weapon in Blade Runner (1982) Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Ridley Scott has created at least two unassailably phenomenal sci-fi movies that have gone on to leave an indelible mark on the medium of filmmaking as a whole: 1979’s Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner. Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and visually inspired by Dan O’Bannon and Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s sci-fi noir comic The Long Tomorrow, Blade Runner is the unquestioned cinematic ur-text of cyberpunk ... despite it not really being a cyberpunk film itself. Harrison Ford shines as Rick Deckard, a former police officer-slash-mercenary hired to track down several bioengineered humanoids known as “replicants” and “retire” them at any cost. Amid an apocalyptic smog-laden Los Angeles setting, dazzling sets chock full of eccentrically costumed characters, and romance subplot involving a beautiful and elusive replicant named Rachael (Sean Young), Blade Runner is a masterpiece whose titanic shadow of influence over the the sum of sci-fi cinema only continues to grow with each passing day. —TE


Catch Me If You Can

Leonardo DiCaprio as con-man Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can. Photo: Amblin Entertainment

Based on a true story, Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Steven Spielberg’s crime film Catch Me If You Can as Frank Abagnale Jr. who impersonated as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a legal prosecutor, successfully conning millions of dollars — and at the age of 19 no less. Hot on his trail is Carl Hanraty (Tom Hanks), an FBI agent who’s always just one step behind Abagnale as he perilously galavants from one successful con to the next across the globe. —TE


Do The Right Thing

Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing. Photo: Universal Pictures

Taking place over the course of a swelteringly hot day in Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing follows a rotating cast of characters as it traces the fault lines of racial tension between the neighborhood’s African-American locals and the Italian-American owner of a local pizzeria. From the film’s iconic shadowboxing opening featuring Rosie Perez, the beautiful and intimate cinematography of frequent Lee collaborator Ernest Dickerson, to its explosive and heart-wrenching finale, Do The Right Thing is unquestionably not only one of the greatest films the director has ever produced, but one of the most essential entries in the canon of American cinema. —TE


The Game

Michael Douglas as banker Nicholas Van Orton staring at a creepy porcelain puppet in The Game Photo: Universal Studios Home Video

David Fincher’s The Game is full of so many twists and turns — and twists of those turns and turns of those twists — that it might make your head spin. A successful, yet lonesome businessman Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is gifted a personalized “real-life game” by his estranged brother, who promises it’ll change his life. The titular game begins pretty harmlessly, but then starts to grow increasingly more personal, delving into his inner demons and repressed memories. But it’s all just for fun, isn’t it? Nothing is real? Or is it? —Petrana Radulovic


The History of Future Folk

Photo: Variance Films

The History of Future Folk is a strange movie to describe; a self-styled “alien folk duo sci-fi action romance comedy” centered around two extraterrestrials who come to Earth in order to conquer the human race, only to have a change of heart through the sonic wonderment that is folk music. A “Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny” for bluegrass music instead of rock ‘n roll, The Future of Future Folk is an hilarious, oddball comedy with silly costumes, corny songs, and likable awkward characters. —TE


Inside

Bo Burnham in Bo Burnham: Inside. Photo: Netflix

Recorded entirely from his own home over the course of year during the COVID-19 pandemic, comedian Bo Burnham’s 2021 comedy special Inside is a biting piece of gallows entertainment that not only documents the deteriorating effects of the isolation brought about by quarantine but the deleterious emotional impact of performativity in our always-online world. With over a dozen catchy earworm music numbers and memorable skits expertly shot and edited by Burnham himself, Inside is as entertaining as it illuminating as a time capsule for one of the most challenging and terrifying periods in recent human history. And it’s cinematic enough that we’re bumping it up to “movie pick” status. —TE


Labyrinth

David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Jennifer Connelly stars opposite of David Bowie in Jim Henson’s classic 1986 musical fantasy Labyrinth as Sarah Williams, a 16-year-old girl who inadvertently casts a spell that results in her baby brother Toby being abducted into another world by the Goblin King Jareth (Bowie). With only 13 hours to spare, Sarah must navigate the treacherous corridors and traps of Jareth’s labyrinth in order to rescind her wish and bring Toby back home, all while defeating the challenges constructed by the Goblin King’s minions. The second collaboration between Henson and artist Brian Froud following 1982’s The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth is a fairytale adventure on par with Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride or Wolfgang Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story, bursting at the seams with memorable characters, beautiful set pieces, and an inimitable performance by David Bowie as a wily and verbose sorcerer with an irrepressible flair for the dramatic. —TE


Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. MGM Distribution Co.

With a third installment supposedly on the way for 2022, now is as good a time as any to revisit (or watch for the first time) Legally Blonde. Nobody takes Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), a sorority girl with a fondness for the color pink, seriously, including her boyfriend, who breaks up with her because she isn’t “serious” enough to fit in with his future political ambitions. To prove him wrong — and, eventually, simply for her own sake — she gets into law school, even winning an internship with the school’s most respected professor as she works through the program. A perfectly calibrated performance by Witherspoon and a supporting cast (including The White Lotus’ perpetually underrated Jennifer Coolidge) make this one stand the test of time. —TE


The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe in The Lincoln Lawyer Photo: Lionsgate

Based on Micahel Connelly’s 2005 novel, Brad Furman’s 2011 legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, a charismatic defense attorney who does business literally from the back of his black Lincoln sedan. Don’t get it twisted though; working-class Cosmopolis this is not. After a career of mostly defending petty criminals, Haller gets his big break in the form of Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot Beverly Hills playboy accused of beating a sex worker. What at first seems like an open-and-shut case and a quick payday unravels into a murderous conspiracy that threatens the lives of his ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei) and his young daughter. The Lincoln Lawyer marks the beginning of what many at the time characterized as the ‘McConaissance’, a period in McConaughey’s career in which the actor embraced a string of captivating dramatic roles which ultimately culminated in winning the Oscar for best actor in 2014. The Lincoln Lawyer may not have been the performance to win him that accolade, but it certainly set the groundwork for his later success. —TE


Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin and his partner Jigen speed down the highway in a yellow beetle car in Hayao Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro. Photo: Manga Video

Hayao Miyazaki’s feature-length debut is a rollicking fun heist caper that takes Monkey Punch’s lascivious and quick-witted criminal mastermind and transforms him into a gentleman thief with a heart as big as his next score. After discovering that the money from their latest heist is counterfeit, Lupin and his partner Jigen Daisuke venture to the European nation of Cagliostro to swindle the counterfeiters themselves. Along the way, Lupin meets and attempts to rescue a young princess betrothed to the villainous Count Lazare de Cagliostro, the mastermind behind the counterfeiting operation. Filled with exciting car chases, hilarious action sequences, and a cast of lovable, quirky characters, The Castle of Cagliostro may not be Miyazaki’s greatest film, but it certainly stands as one of the most unique interpretations of Lupin III to date and a remarkable movie in its own right. —TE


Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia Photo: Ghoulardi Film Company

Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 ensemble drama Magnolia is sprawling mosaic of loosely related characters whose fates and stories are intertwined with one another as their respective search for love, forgiveness, and meaning unspools beautifully across the expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Boasting several masterful performances courtesy of William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon, and many more, Magnolia is unlike anything that Anderson has produced before or since and as such, a vital watch for anyone claiming to be a fan of the director’s work. (And while you’re at it, go watch The Master, which is also streaming on the platform.) —TE


Midnight Run

Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run Photo: Universal Pictures

To paraphrase Polygon’s Chris Plante, studios really don’t make movies like Midnight Run anymore. Starring Robert De Niro (Casino) as bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Beethoven) opposite Charles Grodin as Jonathan Mardukas, an accountant accused of embezzling 15 million dollars for a Chicago mob boss, Martin Brest’s is an odd couple action comedy in the purest sense. With bracing action, heartening comedy, and lively supporting performances from the likes of Yaphet Kotto and Joe Pantoliano, Midnight Run is called a classic for a reason: it’s appeal only continues to endure and thrive in the years since its original release. —TE


Mirai

Kun and an older version of Mirai falling through the sky Photo: GKIDS

Mamoru Hosoda is a filmmaker who has heavily drawn inspiration from his own life to create some of his most critically-acclaimed works in the form of 2009’s Summer Wars and 2012’s Wolf Children. Mirai, the director’s first Oscar-nominated feature and arguably his most personal, follows the struggles of four-year-old Kun as he adapts to the birth of his younger sister. Using a magical garden at the heart of his home, Kun travels across several generations of time to meet both his past relatives and an older version of his sister from future on a journey of discovery and maturity. Inspired by the birth of his second child, Hosoda’s Mirai is a loving ode to the power of family and the responsibilities that come with growing up. —TE


The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Abbi Jacobson as “Katie Mitchell” in The Mitchells vs. the Machines Photo: Netflix

Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), The Mitchells vs. the Machines finds Katy (Abbi Jacobson) and her quirky, dysfunctional family on a cross-country roundtrip that lands them smack dab in the middle of a robot apocalypse. Lord and Miller have an amazing track record and the animation in the trailer looks impressive with some genuinely funny moments to boot. From our review:

From the zany visuals to the wild plot and its genuinely sweet observations on family, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, originally set for a theatrical release by Sony before settling on Netflix, is a joy in every way. It’s a movie that commands attention, with everything going on across the screen and in the script. The action plot augments the family conflict and vice versa, with every moment of the story pushing those plots forward. It’s an utter delight from start to finish that brings the best of animation and the internet to life.


Nocturnal Animals

Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals Photo: Focus Features

This movie is not for everyone, but we’re assuming you love provocative, weirdo cinema. Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) stars in Tom Ford’s gripping neo-noir psychological thriller Nocturnal Animals as Susan Morrow, a successful upper-class art gallery manager who receives a mysterious manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with an invitation to dinner. As Susan pores over the manuscript, an insidious and violent saga unfolds involving a teacher whose family trip evolves into a nightmare that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, forcing her to confront the savage parallels between her own life and the story on the page. Nocturnal Animals is a dark, dense, and beautifully crafted thriller with a killer ending that will stick with you long after it’s over. —TE


Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America Photo: Warner Bros.

Once Upon a Time in America is Sergio Leone’s final film and, by the director’s own insistence, his greatest. Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, the film follows the story of David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and Max Bercovicz (James Woods), two lifelong friends who rise from the squalor of their lives in the ghettos of New York to become successful gangsters in the city’s criminal underworld. Leone’s film is epic spanning over 40 years of love, betrayal, loss, and estrangement as Aaronson and Bercovicz’s ambitions fork and diverge into direct opposition with one another. With beautiful set designs, a somber and memorable score by frequent collaborator Ennio Morricone, and magnetic performances by both De Niro and Woods, Once Upon a Time in America is a tremendous work that captures the animating ambition and sorrow at the heart of the American Dream. —TE


The Piano

Photo: Miramax Films

An eloquent love story with erotic overtones, Jane Campion’s 1993 drama is required viewing for anyone whose list of favorite films is lacking female perspective. After sailing from Scotland to New Zealand, Ada (Holly Hunter), a mute pianist, and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) are dumped on a beach with all of their luggage — and a big-ass piano! Ada’s new husband, who bought her and isn’t terribly up for dragging a musical instrument into his house, leaves the piano for the waves, crushing Ada’s spirit. But her new husband pal Baines (Harvey Keitel) comes to her rescue, and the two strike a relationship that puts the movie firmly into the gothic romance realm. Deeply felt and entranced by Hunter’s near-silent performance, this is Campion at her best and great starting place to an underrated auteur’s career. —MP


The Rugrats Movie

Tommy looking after his baby brother Dil. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies/Klasky-Csupo

Believe it: Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo’s Rugrats stands as one of Nickelodeon’s most enduring original children’s cartoons, a perennial favorite whose focus on the world as seen through the eyes and imagination of a group of precocious toddlers won the hearts of audiences and the acclaim of critics. Capitalizing on the success of the original series, 1998’s The Rugrats Movie introduced fans of the show to a new character in the form of Dil, Tommy Pickle’s baby brother, and set the babies on a wild adventure as they are lost in the woods with no clue how to get back home. Add to the mix a group of escaped circus monkeys and you’ve got a classic Rugrats misadventure with heightened stakes and a heartwarming story of brotherly responsibility. The film went out to become the first non-Disney animated film to gross over 100 million dollars in the U.S. and remains an whimsically entertaining film despite obviously showing its age. —TE


A Silent Voice

Shoko Nishimiya holds her nose as Shoya Ishida stares back at her in A Silent Voice Photo: Kyoto Animation

Adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice is a beautiful, bracing coming-of-age drama about a young man’s journey for redemption after being reunited with the deaf girl he once belittled and terrorized in childhood. Boasting gorgeous visual produced by Kyoto Animation and an emotionally-charged screenplay penned by Reiko Yoshida of Violet Evergarden fame, A Silent Voice is one of the best Japanese animated films of the past decade and an essential watch. —TE


Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs (2015) Photo: Universal Pictures

Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) embodies the circular-rimmed glasses and signature black turtleneck of Steve Jobs, Apple’s late founder and one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic tech giants, in Danny Boyle’s 2015 biopic. Set in and around the launch of three of the company’s most iconic products — and backed by a high-pulse electronic soundtrack — Boyle’s film unpack the professional and interpersonal turmoil roiling beneath the surface of Jobs’ otherwise calm and collected exterior, from his fierce paternity dispute with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) to his combative and complicated relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). Fassbender’s performance deftly emulates the inscrutable, acutely perceptive quality of Jobs with uncanny depth and humanity, creating a portrait of the late tech pioneer in all his frustrating and magnetic complexity. —TE


Uncut Gems

adam sandler in uncut gems Photo: A24

2019’s Uncut Gems is a contemporary crime drama shot through the frenetic rhythm and terror of a heart attack. Adam Sandler, far from just a simple case of stunt casting, delivers an electrifying performance as Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler and gambling addict who comes into possession of a rare black opal that might finally settle his outstanding debts once and for all. The only catch is that Howard’s worst enemy is himself, and his habitual attempt to fleece and manipulate everyone from his family, friends, and acquaintances in search of his next big score imperils both his life and the lives of those around him. With a powerful orchestral EDM score courtesy of Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), dazzling performances by Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and Kevin Garnett as himself, Uncut Gems is an unforgettable film that plays out like a pulse-pounding Greek tragedy set in 2010s New York. —TE


Under The Shadow

Under the Shadow - Shideh Vertical Entertainment

During a string of Iraqi airstrikes in late-1980s Tehran, the Iranian government bars medical student and political activist Shideh (Narges Rashidi) from continuing her studies. She retreats to her family’s apartment, and despite her husband’s wishes, remains with her young daughter in the war-torn capital — this is her home, and she’s not leaving. But when a missile blasts directly through her building, the normal life Shideh and her daughter knew becomes marked by an invisible, nefarious presence. Is it a djinn? Much like in The Babadook, first-time director Babak Anvari allows the question of the supernatural to orbit the action of Under the Shadow as he captures the erosion of his plain, main set, and Shideh’s very existence. —MP


Jiu Jitsu

Nicolas Cage, with long ratty hair, faces off against Alain Moussi as they each grip opposite ends of a staff in Jiu Jitsu Photo: The Avenue

Director Dimitri Logothetis’ 2020 martial arts action fantasy Jiu Jitsu reads like a mashup of Mortal Kombat-meets-Predator on paper, following an ancient order or jiu-jitsu warriors led by Nicolas Cage who battle a race of superpowered alien invaders with cloaking tech for the fate of humanity. As we wrote in our review, “Once it kicks into gear, it never feels like a waste of viewers’ time, either. As the film progresses, the alien fighters’ human opponents fall by the wayside as they take on the extraterrestrial killing machine. The set-up owes a lot to the man-vs.-alien classic Predator, and so, at times, does the execution, with our heroes taking on a being capable of camouflaging itself in the middle of the forest. But originality isn’t really the point. And though any Cage-free attempts at comedy fall flat, the action remains exciting, thanks in large part to Logothetis’ steady-handed, no-frills approach.” —TE