This list is updated monthly to reflect recent availability and to showcase films currently streaming on Netflix, whether talking classics or modern gems.
Netflix offers roughly a gazillion different movies available through its streaming platform — well, approximately a gazillion. However, while the landmark service might become surprisingly accurate with its suggestions once you’ve been using it for a while, it’s still often tough to find something worth watching amid the trove of terrible choices.That being the case, we’ve taken the time to wade through the ridiculous amount of content in order to bring you a list of some of the best films currently available on Netflix Instant. Planning your weekend has never been easier.
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New for November 2015
In our day and age, no series or sitcom is safe from becoming a potential revival. The Addams Family is no exception, even if it is a feature-length film instead of a modern rehashing of the popular TV show from the mid-1960s. The film’s dreary atmosphere and punchy one-liners take a cue from Charles Addams’ cartoon of the same name, acting as a droll canvas on which director Barry Sonnenfeld, aka the Coen brothers’ former cinematographer, fleshes out the story of Morticia (Anjelica Huston), Gomez (Raúl Juliá), and the entire Addams crew. The dry humor and Sonnenfeld’s ace visual work capture the deadpan spirit of Addams’ original work with splendor and wit, while the nightmarish gags and Huston’s scene-stealing delivery further solidify it as a cult classic.
The 31-minute spectacle that is Kung Fury is a testament to what can be done with a touch of nostalgia, a few special effects, and more than $650,000 in backing. The short film began as the Kickstarter project of one David Sandberg, a Swedish music video director and special effects whiz, before coming to fruition and YouTube in mid-2015. The premise itself — which revolves around a Miami detective who travels back in time in order to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime — is as ridiculous as the over-the-top martial arts sequences, all of which benefit from the use of dinosaurs, vikings, ninjas, and leather-wielding David Hasselhoff. It’s an action-packed homage to the prolific cop genre from the ’80s, and though void of taste, it’s better off because of it.
The inevitable release of Beasts of No Nation was a long time coming. The Netflix-distributed film, the streaming service’s first, simultaneously premiered on the service and in limited releases throughout the globe to widespread critical acclaim in October. Lauded director Cary Joji Fukunaga penned and shot the entire feature, which traces the harrowing life of a child soldier (Abraham Attah) who falls in line with a group of mercenaries and their larger-than-life commandant (Idris Elba). The latter actor is a powerhouse, both terrifying and charismatic, while the rest of the film tackles the brutal atrocities of war with just the right amount of impact and implication. It’s certainly not an easy watch given the film’s more bold and bloody moments, yet, why should it be given the nature of its content?
August: Osage County is a brilliant play, and in turn, August: Osage County makes for a brilliant film. The film and play both center on a dysfunctional family, three sisters in particular, who return to their childhood home in Oklahoma following the disappearance of their father. The A-list cast features everyone from Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch to Ewan McGregor and Meryl Streep, all of whom spend the majority of the film quarreling with one another over matters of incest, mistaken paternity, adultery, and a laundry list of grudges rooted within their childhood upbringing and their current state of affairs. The black comedy is ripe with dark humor and theatrical setpieces, not to mention scathing dialogue that will make your annual family outings seem tame.
Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke when he was a mere 43 years old. The crippling incident left him with a condition known as lock-in syndrome, which paralyzes nearly all voluntary muscles in his body except for his eyes. Bauby was still able to dictate an entire memoir by blinking his left eyelid, however, giving rise to the The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the film adaptation thereof. The heroic film chronicles the day-to-day life with the condition, along Bauby’s fantasies and past life, culminating in a film that brims with wisdom and celebrates life when it could very easily dawdle in despair given the grave subject matter. Moreover, French actor Mathieu Amalric’s portrayal as Bauby is spectacular… right down to his stationary antics and frenzied twitching.
There was a time, after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body building days and before his time in office, when he was a machine in more ways than one. The Terminator solidified his acting career and propelled director James Cameron to the forefront of Hollywood, helping spur a franchise that still continues to this day for better or worse. The original remains one of the best post-apocalyptic flicks of the entire ’80s though, and tells the tale of a cyborg (Schwarzenegger) who travels back in time to kill a woman (Linda Hamilton) whose unborn son is destined to lead the human resistance against the machines. It’s light on dialogue and backstory, sure, but the high-octane chase scenes, sly humor, and endless carnage are more than enough. The iconic theme music helps, too.
The fabled Hayao Miyazaki isn’t the only director with a penchant for animated whimsy. Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey’s The Secret of Kells is a delightful romp steeped in Irish tradition and Celtic mythology, one that beautifully employs ornate design and a luscious colors to tell the tale of a medieval monk (Evan McGuire) on a mission to save an enchanted forest and complete a storied book. The way the otherworldly images and story unfold on a flat, 2D plane is magnificent, as is the way the hand-drawn film meshes the ancient manuscript illustrations with modern animation. The ravenous wolves and dark forests of the film are as reliant on history as they are fantasy, and though they take a cue from a book first conceived in a remote Irish abbey more than a millennium ago, they do so with a contemporary twist that’s suited for children and adults alike.
Director Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a strange film by all accounts, yet, it’s often considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema and arguably the first horror film in existence. A multitude of jagged landscapes and sharp angles punctuate the bizarre cinematography — giving the silent film about an evil hypnotist, an asylum inmate, and a psychiatrist an added depth of surrealism and two-dimensional mystique — while other cubist-esque touches and techniques further define its visual flare. Looks aside, the iconic film serves as an enduring expose on the mental state of Francis (Friedrich Feher), serving both as a vessel for examining the duality of human nature and our owns perceptions of reality. It’s likely not, as some claim, a premonition of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, but that doesn’t render it any less unnerving.
Terms of Endearment is a classic tear-jerker of much renown. Much like Larry McMurtry’s novel of the same name, the offbeat film follows widow Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and daughter Emma Greenway-Horton (Debra Winger) over the span of 30 years, exploring the humor and heartbreak that accompany the men they date. It’s a bittersweet melodrama with wonderful performances and taut scripting at its core, so much that its examination of dating and our relationships comes off as natural as it gets. Jack Nicholson’s supporting role only just bolsters it all, even if it is Winger’s performance in the closing scenes that truly gives the award-winning film its gusto and humanity. Hook, line, and sinker.