NOW STREAMING AUG. 5, 2021
Nightcrawler. Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Bold Films
This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.
With thousands of movies to choose from, and a navigation system and algorithm that don’t always make the right choice easy to find, it can be difficult to know what to watch on Netflix. That’s why we’re here, breaking down the 100 best movies on the service at this minute, with regular updates for titles that have been removed and when new ones are added. We’ve done the hard work, so now the only thing you have to do is sit back and, uh, watch all 100 movies. (And if you’re more of a TV person, check out the 50 best TV shows on Netflix.)
Oliver Stone’s 2004 historical epic isn’t exactly one of the auteur’s best, but it’s what might be correctly called a fascinating failure. Sometimes that’s all you need on Netflix. Stone certainly gives his all to this elaborate, expensive telling of the story of Alexander the Great starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, and Rosario Dawson. It’s so excessive that it’s impossible to look away.
The kind of serious thriller that American audiences didn’t know what to do with when it came out, this 2010 Anton Corbijn film had a critical following but failed at the box office. Based on the book A Very Private Gentleman, it stars George Clooney as a contract killer in hiding who has to flee across Europe after his cover is blown. Tense and very smart.
The great Edward James Olmos produced, directed, and starred in this 1992 drama that became one of the actor’s most beloved films. It’s loosely based on the true story of the rise of the Mexican mafia in the California prison system with Olmos playing Montoya Santana, a rising gangster who ends up the leader of a powerful prison gang at Folsom State Prison.
A dramatization of the final years of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, Julian Schnabel’s 2018 drama is not a typical biopic, finding the artistic register of its subject more than chronologically detailing his life. It’s anchored by a phenomenal performance from Willem Dafoe as the troubled painter, a turn which earned him his fourth Oscar nomination.
Mati Diop’s directorial debut is a tender, mesmerizing study of life on the coast of Senegal, where men often venture out for more prosperous shores, leaving the women behind. It’s a delicate, beautiful film that plays like a romance, ghost story, and study of inequality all at the same time. See it before someone recommends it to you.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western anthology series was a part of Netflix’s brand-redefining 2018. Sure, Netflix still has a bunch of junk, but it also landed the latest from Alfonso Cuaron, the Coens, and even Orson Welles. This brilliant Western works as comedy, drama, and even a commentary on the Coens themselves. Don’t miss it.
Joel and Ethan Coen followed up Fargo, the biggest hit of their careers, with the story of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, unforgettably played by Jeff Bridges. In one of his most iconic roles, Bridges captures a kind of lazy L.A. style that turned this flick into a comedy classic, a movie that’s being quoted somewhere in the world on every minute of every day.
Ethan Hawke really can do it all. The incredible actor can also direct, as evidenced by the 2018 Sundance entry about the life of the musician Blaze Foley, a famous folk artist who died too young. Ben Dickey is excellent as the title character, and the supporting cast includes Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, and Kris Kristofferson. It’s a film that really gets the makeshift communities and families that form around musicians.
Sofia Coppola directed this 2013 true story about a group of young people in Los Angeles who decided to start robbing celebrities. It’s an underrated dramedy about privilege and desire, filtered through the vibrant viewpoint of its filmmaker and talented young cast, including Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga.
Paul Thomas Anderson is considered by many as one of the top American filmmakers working right now, but that wasn’t the case before the release of this 1997 masterpiece about life in the Los Angeles porn scene. Mark Wahlberg has never (and likely never will be) better than he is here, anchoring an ensemble that includes equally great work from Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds. It’s a classic.
As No Time to Die has been delayed multiple times due to COVID, Netflix is here to satisfy your 007 needs with the first outing for Daniel Craig as the most famous movie spy of all time. This is easily one of the best Bond movies, a flick that redefined the character with more intense stakes and realistic action sequences. It’s a legitimately great movie, not just for what it did for its genre and the future of its legendary super spy.
One of Steven Spielberg’s most underrated films stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, a legendary con man who became a millionaire through his crimes, and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent trying to track him. Charming and delightful, thanks to a great script by Jeff Nathanson, this is a movie that’s easy to watch again and again.
Forget it, Jake. One of the best movies of the ’70s was recently added to Netflix’s back catalog, and it’s a must-see for any film fan. The Best Picture nominee (and Best Screenplay winner) tells the story of Jake Gittes, played unforgettably by Jack Nicholson, as he investigates an adulterer and finds something much more insidious under the surface of Los Angeles.
Is this the biggest horror movie of the 2010s? Not only did it make James Wan into a major director, but it spawned its own multiple title franchise with spin-offs like The Nun and Annabelle. Go back to the beginning and watch the first and arguably still best film in the series, a fantastic haunted house movie that revitalized the genre. And then follow it up with the excellent sequel, also on Netflix.
Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic horror film seemed to start building a cult following the instant it was released. Sure, mainstream audiences who came to the multiplex in October looking for a scary movie didn’t quite respond to it, but a reappreciation started quickly. After all, this is a gorgeous, unforgettable piece of craft, a reminder that Del Toro’s vision is unlike anyone else working together. Watch it again. It’s one of those movies everyone is going to claim they loved from the very beginning.
Barack and Michelle Obama executive produced one of 2020’s best documentaries in this Netflix exclusive that originally premiered at Sundance. It’s the story of Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York in the ’70s that was described as a “loose, free-spirited camp designed for teens with disabilities.” This isn’t just a time capsule but a look at how support and community can change people’s lives forever.
Clive Owen broke through in this 1998 noir in which he’s so smooth that people immediately began suggesting he should be the next 007. Owen plays a writer who gets a job as a croupier — a fancy word for a dealer in a casino — and falls into the wrong scene. Smart and thrilling, it’s one of the more underrated movies of the late ’90s, and a perfect vehicle for Owen’s charm.
Spike Lee’s first Original Netflix movie is one of the master filmmaker’s best works to date. The story of five men searching for gold in the jungle is more of a commentary on two wars that never ended — the Vietnam War and the struggle for civil rights.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when a historical drama like this could be such a phenomenon, but it shows you how much our times have changed in the three decades since its release. This movie made over $400 million worldwide on its way to seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. Known more now as the movie that stole deserving Oscars from GoodFellas, this is a better movie than its reputation.
Netflix has a habit of cycling Martin Scorsese in and out of their streaming service. Right now, his Best Picture winner is on the service. Watch it while you can.
Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winner reimagines both the Old West and the Italian film series Django into something that only QT could make. It features one of Jamie Foxx’s best performances as the title character, a slave who escapes and teams up with a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his amazing work here.
Alexander Payne’s best film remains this 1999 comedy starring a young Reese Witherspoon as the unforgettable Tracy Flick, an overachieving student who simply rubs Matthew Broderick’s high school teacher the wrong way. With a clever understanding of how high school politics and dynamics reflect adult versions of the same thing, it remains a funny, smart piece of work from a great director.
Leigh Janiak co-wrote and directed a trilogy of adaptations loosely based on the books by R.L. Stine. These great horror films tell the story of Shadyside, a small town cursed by a witch generations ago in a way that has led to waves of murders ever since. Smart, funny, and truly bloody, they first seem like mere homages to classic horror (and there are a ton of fun references for genre fans) but they also stand firmly on their own two feet.
One of the best films of the 2010s is this heartbreaking character study from Sean Baker, a story of people on the edge of the Happiest Place on Earth as seen through the eyes of a child. It’s a beautiful movie with unforgettable performances and poetic realism throughout.
Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, an average guy who really changed the entire world when he bought a fast-food restaurant from Richard and Maurice McDonald, played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, and gave the world the Golden Arches of McDonald’s. John Lee Hancock’s biopic can be a little dry at times but the great cast, especially Keaton, elevate it this interesting look at the formative days of an iconic American brand.
Long before he joined the MCU or played Creed, the great Michael B. Jordan starred in this true story of the death of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by a police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in 2009. Ryan Coogler’s debut, this is a powerful drama that examines issues of systemic violence in a way that still resonates.
One of David Fincher’s most divisive films has returned to Netflix. Michael Douglas stars in the story of an investment banker who is asked by his brother (Sean Penn) to participate in a game that’s incorporated into his everyday life. After he agrees, things get intense. Clever and incredibly well-made, it’s held up beautifully.
The Vulture choice for the Best Netflix Original Horror Movie has to be on this list too, right? Especially viewed in the wake of the phenomenon that was The Haunting of Hill House, this movie really works. It’s one of the best Stephen King adaptations on any platform, anchored by a phenomenal Carla Gugino performance.
It’s still hard to believe that Chadwick Boseman is gone. Take the chance now that this biopic is on Netflix to see one of his best performances as the late, great James Brown. The film around Boseman is a bit mediocre in traditional biopic ways, but Boseman throws his all into the role, as he always did, and gives Brown the tribute he deserves.
David Lowery’s experimental film is one of the most unusual movies you could watch on Netflix tonight. It stars Rooney Mara as a grieving widow after her husband, played by Casey Affleck, suddenly dies, but it becomes something much stranger and more ambitious when it becomes a decades-spanning look at a lost soul in a world filled with grief and trauma. It’s a beautiful movie about loss.
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