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.
New for September
Touching the Void
Touching the Void recounts the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ successful West Face summit of Siula Grande in 1985. However, as any climber knows, reaching the mountaintop is only half the battle. The climb had already taken longer than anticipated due to inclement weather, and after successfully summiting the mountain, the two began to run low on fuel and resources. They ended up speeding up their descent, but shortly afterward, Simpson slipped and broke his leg.
Kevin MacDonald’s harrowing docudrama chronicles the series of unfortunate setbacks as they unfold, all of which nearly cost both men their lives. Filled with first-person accounts of the trek, Touching the Void is a solid pick for climbing enthusiasts and anyone with a soft spot for brutal storytelling. And while the film may be filled with mere reenactments, the mere thought of the experience will still make you cringe.
Ripe with dark humor and showcasing Colin Farrell in what might be his best film, In Bruges remains a British-American drama of the highest caliber. Though the oddball film features a gloomy premise that revolves around two hit men who must lay low at a bed-and-breakfast in Belgium until their boss contacts them, it finds an incredible amount of humor in its witty and sharply-written script. Farrell is stupendous, too, whether portraying an offhanded killer or a fumbling lover that’s as nervous as a 13-year-old boy fresh out of middle school.
Saving Private Ryan
Director Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan defined the look and tone of almost all World War II-related media for decades to come, having chronicled the early months of America’s entry into the war. During the carnage of D-Day, three of four brothers enlisted in the U.S. military are killed in action. In order to keep the sole remaining brother alive, Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) of the 2nd Ranger Battalion gathers a squad of Army Rangers and embarks on a mission save Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), a paratrooper from the 101st Airborne division who has gone MIA in Normandy.
Miller’s squad treks deep into war-torn France, searching for the displaced soldier. From the opening moments at Omaha Beach to the final moments of the film, Captain Miller and his squad face the harrowing reality of combat in World War II, and build unshakable bonds that are formed between soldier during war. The all star cast also includes Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Deisel, Giovanni Ribisi, Ted Danson, Jeremy Davies, Paul Giamatti, and Dennis Farina. Saving Private Ryan won five Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Director, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture.
The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch gives a masterful performance as British codebreaker Alan Turing, whose ability to decipher the German Enigma machine proved vital to the Allied victory in World War II. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, director Morten Tyldum delivers a stirring film that was lauded by the Human Rights Campaign for its portrayal of Turing’s legacy as a gay man. Keira Knightley and Charles Dance also shine in supporting roles.
Hard to be a God
Truly thought-provoking sci-fi films seem rare these days, making gems like Aleksey German’s Hard to Be a God all the more precious. The experimental film begins with a group of scientists from Earth landing on a planet where humans also exist but have not progressed beyond the Middle Ages in terms of technology. One scientist, Anton (Leonid Yarmolnik), is dispatched to the Kingdom of Arkanar to help the locals progress. Taking on the identity of noblemen Don Rumata, he attempts to guide the kingdom into a new age, but must contend with the brutal Don Reba (Aleksandr Chutko). Hard to Be a God is a grim film, depicting a world where the land is as harsh as its people. At its core is the moral struggle of Rumata, however, whose directives prevent him from interfering directly with Arkanar’s advancement..
Although found footage felt like a novel idea when the Blair Witch Project premiered, the genre became stagnant after years of imitators. There are only so many times one can stand to watch someone run through a darkly lit house while screaming at nothing in particular, after all. The Norwegian film Troll Hunter mines some new depths for the genre by mixing some fantasy in. The film opens with a trio of students investigating a suspected poacher. After finding the alleged poacher, Hans (Otto Jespersen), they follow him on one of his nightly excursions. What they discover is that Hans is not hunting bears, nor any animal. He is hunting trolls, massive creatures that turn to stone in the sunlight. The students decide to document his mission, despite the danger. Although Troll Hunter falls victim to some typical horror movie cliches — characters making blatantly irrational decisions, for examples — the unique creature designs set it far above the latest Paranormal Activity clones.
Disney’s animated take on the odd couple schtick turns “buddy cop” into “bunny cop.” Zootopia follows rabbit police officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and small-time criminal fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) as they investigate a string of disappearances tied to animals “going savage” and attacking one another. Though Zootopia is a kids movie through and through, adult themes like prejudice and stereotyping show up from time to time, making it an enjoyable experience for all. A superb voice cast featuring Idris Elba, Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons, and more supports the excellent animation and writing. Zootopia, the second-highest grossing film of 2016, hits all the right notes with any audience.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
An adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s stage musical, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd finds the director pairing his distinct Gothic wonderland aesthetic with appropriately ghoulish source material. The story follows Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a barber who has returned to London after spending years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The man who sentenced him, Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), did it so that he could rape Barker’s wife; now, he is the guardian of Barker’s child. Eager for revenge, Barker adopts the alias of Sweeney Todd and opens a new barber shop, hoping to become successful enough to lure Turpin in for a shave and murder him. Unfortunately, Todd cannot control his violent urges, and uses various customer for release. A musical is nothing without great music, and Sweeney Todd is some of Sondheim’s best work, catchy and beautiful, dark and often humorous. Depp captures Todd’s barely-concealed menace, but the real stars are supporting cast members such as Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Coen (playing the foppish rival barber, Adolfo Pirelli).
Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning thriller based on the novel of the same name ushered in the very concept of the summer blockbuster, and changed has maintained its status as one of the greatest films ever made in the decades since its release. Jaws begins on the sleepy island town of Amity during a busy and remarkably hot summer season. After discovering the human remains of a shark attack, the town’s new Sheriff, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), attempts to convince the Mayor to close the beaches, despite steep opposition. When another attacks claims the life of a child, the island is swamped by amature shark hunters looking to claim the bounty on the animal’s head.
Brody joins up with fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw), and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a scientist from the Oceanographic Institute, and the trio embark on a hunt for the killer shark. The final act of the film culminates in a deadly confrontation that is still emulated by many films today, and set a new bar for special effects at the time. When the film was originally released in ‘75, it even caused a panic among audiences, resulting in several incidents across the country where beachgoers were frightened by things mistaken for sharks. From the classic score and quotable dialog to the way it changed how audiences looked at the ocean, Jaws is a timeless film..