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 catalog 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 is the good movies — no, the best movies.
We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in May, we’ve narrowed down your options to 24 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from taut thrillers and horror classics to eccentric comedies and the best Netflix originals. 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. Our latest update has added Lagaan, Margin Call, and RRR.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The sensation that launched a franchise, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street lives on as a horror masterpiece decades later. Teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends become the targets of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a deceased serial killer now haunting (and hunting) people in their dreams. As Nancy’s friends start dying in their sleep one by one, she tries desperately to stay awake to survive. A timeless slasher that might also keep you from sleeping, Elm Street and Krueger have staying power for a reason. —Pete Volk
Ben Affleck directs and stars in the 2012 historical thriller Argo as Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration specialist tasked with rescuing six former staff members of the American embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. His plan? Travel to Iran under the guise of a Hollywood producer working on a film based on Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, disguise the six hostages as his Canadian film crew, and safely rescue them before anyone discovers otherwise. Affleck’s film takes an unlikely but true story and turns it into a riveting drama powered by confident direction, terrific performances, and excellent editing. —Toussaint Egan
Baahubali: The Beginning
In Western terms, this Tollywood production, the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release, is like a biblical epic by way of Marvel Studios, with a little Hamlet and Step Up thrown in for good measure. The Beginning chronicles the life of Shivudu, an adventurer with superhuman strength who escapes his provincial life by scaling a skyscraper-sized waterfall, aids and romances a rebel warrior named Avanthika, then teams up with her to rescue a kidnapped queen from an evil emperor. Exploding with hyper-choreographed fight sequences and CG spectacle (not to mention a handful of musical numbers with equal bravura), The Beginning is 159 minutes of mythical excess, going big like only Indian film can and resting on the muscular shoulders of its hero, the single-name actor Prabhas. If you fall hard for it, get pumped — this is only part one. The twist leads into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, another two-and-a-half-hour epic currently streaming on Netflix. —Matt Patches
A sleek and sexy thriller that makes hacking look extremely cool, Michael Mann’s unfairly maligned Blackhat stands tall as a high mark in digital filmmaking. It is peak Mann — if you’re not a fan of the Heat director’s work, your mileage may vary. In the film, Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom), a captain in the PLA’s cyber warfare unit, is tasked with getting to the bottom of a computer attack that melts down a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong. While liaising with the FBI investigation, Chen insists on the aid of his old friend Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, who has never been hotter or cooler), an imprisoned genius hacker. When Hathaway and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer also helping with the case, fall for each other, it adds an extra wrinkle to an already high stakes situation. Viola Davis and Holt McCallany feature as FBI agents who aren’t super happy to have to rely on a notorious criminal.
With sharp digital cinematography and unforgettable set pieces, Blackhat explores our changing global relationship to technology. Mann makes tangible the microscopic computer systems that run the world: an extreme close-up of internal wires leading to a motherboard like a vast interconnected highway; a computer fan that sounds like a jet engine. Events that in other films would be shown as a boring stroke of keys are instead depicted as hypnotic processes happening under the surface of the visible world. —PV
Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as Officer “K,” a Blade Runner in Los Angeles whose discovery of a mysterious grave leads him on a search to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner who may hold the key to a mystery whose answer could rock the very foundation of civilization as we know it. Set 30 years after the events of Blade Runner (1982), Villeneuve’s film resonates as powerfully as its predecessor, offering a sober glimpse at a world of dwindling resources and nascent climate catastrophe that feels like the natural outcome of the wanton technological excess of Ridley Scott’s original. Gosling is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of K, a replicant searching for a sense of meaning and purpose apart from the role he was intended for. With extravagant moody set pieces, beautiful lighting, tense action, and memorable performances from Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, and more, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy successor to one of the most defining works of sci-fi cinema ever produce and a masterpiece all its own. —TE
Blood and Bone
Michael Jai White is a treasure around these parts, and of the many excellent DTV action movies he has starred in, Blood and Bone may be the best. White is Isaiah Bone, an ex-Marine martial artist recently out of prison who meets an eccentric local fight promoter named Pinball (Dante Basco) and starts entering underground fights. When he falls deeper into the world of underground fighting, he learns just how far the powerful people who run the circuit will go to maintain their illegal business. With jaw-dropping fights featuring former professional fighters Bob Sapp, Kimbo Slice, and Matt Mullins, Blood and Bone is an appropriately stellar vehicle for White as a movie star and as a screen fighter. —PV
The Debt Collector
A buddy comedy by way of direct-to-video action specialist Jesse V. Johnson, The Debt Collector is the first of a series of two very good movies starring Scott Adkins (Avengement) and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as a wise-cracking duo collecting debts for the mob. Adkins plays French, a down-on-his-luck martial arts instructor who turns to debt collecting to pay his own debts off. Mandylor plays a boy named Sue, the veteran debt collector French is paired up with for his first day of work.
As the two get deeper into their work, they discover a scheme that puts a young child at risk, and consider risking it all themselves to help. Adkins and Mandylor have terrific chemistry in the lead roles, bringing this out of the echelon of “solid DTV movies” and into the realm of “great hangout flicks.” Also, Tony Todd (Candyman) plays a mobster named Barbosa. –PV
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Johnnie To is one of our great modern directors, equally adept in hard-boiled triad crime dramas and light-hearted romantic comedies alike. 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart falls in the latter category, and is one of the many high marks of the Hong Kong director’s legendary career. Fresh off the end of a long-term relationship, Chi-yan (Gao Yuanyuan) is an analyst for an investment bank who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. On one side, there’s Sean (Louis Koo), a CEO who works across the street from Chi-yan and yearns for her through the tall corporate glass windows that separate them. On the other, there’s Kevin (the always-dreamy Daniel Wu), an alcoholic former architect who helps Chi-yan move on and is inspired by her to start creating again. What follows is a sincere, funny, and truly charming romantic time. —PV
Julia Hart’s 2018 superhero drama Fast Color stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror, Loki) as Ruth, a homeless wanderer with inexplicable powers who returns to her family home after years of hiding from the police. Reunited with her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and her young daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), who both possess the same powers as her, Ruth attempts to regain control over her abilities and reconcile with Lila, all while eluding the authorities who seek to capture and study her. As we wrote in our review, Fast Color is less a “superhero” film as it is an intimate family drama set in a speculative universe à la 2016’s Midnight Special. The spectacle on display is not the manifestation of Ruth’s powers, but in the masterful trio of performances at its center combining to create a story as poignant as it is exhilarating. —TE
Andrew Niccol has never made a better film than Gattaca, period. The director has dabbled with visually impressive sci-fi dystopias in films like 2011’s In Time or 2018’s Anon, but neither of those have managed to surpass that sheer lightning-in-a-bottle ingenuity of his directorial debut. Set in a future “not too distant” from our own, Niccol’s film stars Ethan Hawke as Vincent Freeman, a supposedly “inferior” man born into a society defined by a eugenically organized caste system who yearns to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut. Defying the institutional roadblocks of his time, Vincent assumes the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law), a eugenically exceptional athlete, in order to work as navigator at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation. When Gattaca’s administrator is mysteriously killed just days before Vincent’s mission to Titan, he’ll have to elude the suspicions of the investigators tasked with solving the murder as well as those of his co-worker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman). With a brilliantly evocative score composed by Michael Nyman, a powerful, animating trio of performances by Hawke, Thurman, and Law, and an impeccably stylish retro-futuristic aesthetic, Gattaca is soul-stirring science fiction. —TE
The Ip Man movies
All five movies in the Ip Man series — the four main entries (all on Netflix) and the spinoff Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (not on Netflix, but on Peacock and Tubi, among others) — are terrific martial arts dramas. They’re a great starting place for anyone looking to get into the genre, and also a terrific comfort watch for enthusiasts of martial arts movies.
Donnie Yen completely immerses himself as the stoic Ip Man, the Wing Chun grandmaster who taught Bruce Lee (played by Danny Chan Kwok-kwan in the series), among others. Yen brings a pensiveness to the role to go with his incredible martial arts prowess. All four movies are directed by frequent Yen collaborator Wilson Yip and go from one all-time great action choreographer to another: The first two movies had action by Sammo Hung, and the next two by Yuen Woo-ping. Those are quite possibly the two greatest to ever do it, and if that’s not enough to get you to tune in, I don’t know what is. —PV
Ashutosh Gowariker’s timeless sports classic stars Aamir Khan as Bhuvan, a confident young man from a village that is dealing with both British oppression and a long-standing drought. When the wicked Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne, who is deliriously good in this) challenges the village to a game of cricket (which they do not know how to play) as a bet, with their owed taxes (which they cannot afford to pay) on the line, Bhuvan takes it upon himself to form a team and learn the game. What follows is a soaring sports drama with humor, heart, and a show-stopping match finale. Lagaan was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 74th Academy Awards. —PV
This French crime thriller executes a simple premise to absolute perfection. Lino (former stunt man Alban Lenoir) is an expert mechanic forced to work for dirty cops. When he’s framed for a murder he did not commit, he has to find the one thing that can prove his innocence: a lost bullet in a missing car. With high-octane action sequences and great car stunts, this is a 92-minute thrill ride through and through. —PV
J.C. Chandor’s 2011 film Margin Call takes place over the span of 24 hours, following the employees of a prestigious Wall Street investment bank as they struggle to understand and respond to what will eventually be known as the global financial crisis of 2008. While perhaps not as approachable or didactic as Adam McKay’s The Big Short, Chandor’s film nonetheless manages to transform financial esotericism into riveting drama through the strength of its casts’ performances. Paul Bettany is terrific here, as are Zachary Quinto and Demi Moore, but the standout performance by far is Jeremy Irons, who delivers a remarkable scene during the film’s climax that’s as charismatic as it is disquietingly chilling. —TE
The Night Comes For Us
The Night Comes for Us just fucking whips, OK? Why waste time on subtlety and preamble; the film certainly doesn’t! Indonesian action thrillers have been enjoying a renaissance period ever since Gareth Evans’ 2011 film The Raid kicked the door down and mollywhopped everything else in sight. Timo Tjahjanto’s 2018 film certainly follows in the footsteps of Evans’ own, with The Raid star Joe Taslim starring here as Ito, a gangland enforcer who betrays his Triad crime family by sparing the life of a child and attempting to flee the country. Fellow The Raid star Iko Uwais shows up here as Arian, Ito’s childhood friend and fellow enforcer, who is tasked with hunting down Ito and recovering the girl. The action comes fast and frenzied here, with kinetic choreography and dazzling handheld cinematography that makes every punch, fall, and stab count. If you need to get your adrenaline pumping, throw this one on. —TE
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the neo-noir thriller Nightcrawler as Lou, an unscrupulous hustler who muscles into the cutthroat world of freelance crime journalism. As his reputation grows, Lou resorts to ever more malicious and unethical means to stay on top and one step ahead of his competition. The unambiguous portrayal of Lou’s sociopathic tendencies is a key focus of the film, with his aforementioned behaviors being directly linked to his success as a so-called nightcrawler. With beautiful nighttime cinematography, tense action, and a career-best performance by Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler is a stunning and unsettling film that will stick with you long after it’s over. —TE
2014’s Paddington is as whimsical and earnest as it is inventive and surprising. Ben Whishaw stars as the Peruvian bear cub who stows aboard a lifeboat to London in search of a new home. Granted safe haven by the kindly Brown family, Paddington sets out in search for the explorer who long ago visited his homeland and befriended his family while eluding the many perils and pitfalls of the big city.
Nicole Kidman and Peter Calpadi deliver devilishly charming performances as the film’s antagonists, while Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are equally noteworthy as the vivacious Mrs. Brown and her stuffy risk-averse husband. Complete with sharp writing, intriguing set pieces, and loads of creative physical comedy, Paddington is an absolute delight. —TE
The Paper Tigers
Tran Quoc Bao’s kung fu action comedy stars Alain Uy, Ron Yuan (Mulan), and Mykel Shannon Jenkins as the eponymous Paper Tigers: three former martial arts prodigies who, after a lifetime of strenuous training and hard fighting, have grown into beleaguered middle-aged nobodies. But when their master is murdered, the three swear an oath to avenge his memory and bring his killer to justice. If that sounds serious, please know this falls into the Apatowian camp of Dumb Man comedy. —TE
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 historical drama Phantom Thread follows the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), an irascible haute couture dressmaker in 1950s London whose carefully cultivated lifestyle is upset by his ongoing love affair with his muse Alma (Vicky Krieps), a strong-willed woman with ambitions and desires of her own. His final film role to date, Day-Lewis is unsurprisingly masterful in his portrayal of Woodcock as an artist whose capricious infatuations and fastidious inflexibility prove unbearable to all except Alma, who discovers a ... let’s say unconventional way of leveling the power dynamic in their relationship. Top that with exquisite score by Jonny Greenwood and beautiful costume designs by Mark Bridges and you’ve got what is undoubtedly one of Anderson’s finest films to date. —TE
One of our favorite movies of the year, RRR is an epic bromance for the ages filled to the brim with jaw-dropping action sequences, unforgettable music numbers, and two guys just being dudes. If you can, you should consider watching it in the original Telugu language version on Zee5. If you can’t, the Hindi dub on Netflix is still well worth your time. —PV
A satirical adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel of the same name, Paul Verhoeven’s biting 1997 sci-fi film Starship Troopers takes place in a far-off future where the Federation, a fascistic military organization that rules the Earth through a planetwide system of mandatory conscription, instigates a full-scale war against a fearsome race of giant alien insects. Though derided when it was first released, the film has experienced a reappraisal in the decades since to such a point that it’s now championed as one of the best and most perceptive science fiction films of its era. Would you like to know more? —TE