This list is updated monthly to reflect recent availability and to showcase films currently streaming on Netflix, whether we’re talking classics or modern gems.
Netflix offers roughly a gazillion different movies available through its streaming platform — well, approximately a gazillion. 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. Planning your weekend has never been easier.
New for January
Miss Sharon Jones!
The late, great Sharon Jones was a force to be reckoned with, particularly when at the helm of her fellow Dap-Kings. The singer’s undeniable penchant for ‘60s-style soul and classic R&B isn’t the central force behind this heartrending documentary, however. Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple’s film functions as a no-holds-barred examination of Jones’ more recent triumphs and lifelong hardships, one that opens with her being diagnosed with the same pancreatic cancer that would kill her three years later. The rest of it plays out with a healthy mix of interviews and candid observations, each punctured with invigorating concert footage that serves as both a testament to the unflinching strength of her perseverance and yet another reminder at just how ruthless last year truly was.
Caddyshack is a film for the books. The legendary comedy sees greats such as Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray headline an all-star cast that spends much of their time romping around Bushwood Country Club, a suburban golf paradise littered with crazy characters. The ensemble film focuses on a host of unforgettable characters, including greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Murray) and Al Czervik (Dangerfield), a loud-mouthed man whose wealth and mere presence irks the club’s more affluent members. Murray, of course, spends the bulk of his time trying to rid the course of a gopher infestation, while a young Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) caddies for Ty Webb (Chase) in an effort to earn money for his college tuition. Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, National Lampoon’s Holiday) directs, lending the film plenty of crude humor and more quotable dialogue than anything in his catalog.
Mel Gibson’s 1995 historical epic has become something of a punchline, no doubt thanks to the actor’s very public fall from grace and the film’s earnestly patriotic “FREEDOM!” speech. That’s a shame, because Braveheart is an intense war film, a bloody epic that draws inspiration from cinema classics like Spartacus. The film follows the life of William Wallace (Gibson), a minor Scottish nobleman whose wife is murdered by the country’s English governors. Taking up arms in revenge, Wallace leads a guerrilla campaign against the English, hoping to liberate his people from the rule of King Edward I. Gibson is in his prime as a leading man, and the film is a great showcase for his directorial chops. Tightly choreographed fight scenes and sweeping shots of the Lowlands are exposed in their muddy, primal glory. Although Braveheart has its share of over-the-top moments (the aforementioned cry of “Freedom!”) it is, for the most part, a beautiful, bloody affair, with Wallace teetering between heroism and butchery.
The second of the classic Superman films, Superman II begins with the titular hero (Christopher Reeve) accidentally freeing a trio of Kryptonian criminals from their interdimensional prison. The outlaws, led by General Zod (Terence Stamp), come to Earth and quickly subdue the leaders of the world. Superman must then contend with this new threat, while simultaneously dealing with the pressures of his relationship with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Superman II doesn’t have the flashy special effects of more recent superhero movies, but it tells a charming, optimistic story that’s well-suited for the iconic character of Superman. Too bad the same thing can’t be said for the following two films in the well-known superhero saga…
V for Vendetta
Alan Moore’s dystopian vision of Britain translates fairly well to the silver screen, with help from the iconoclastic Wachowski Brothers. In a country ruled by a fascist cabal, all information is regulated by the government, and the police maintain an iron grip on all aspects of life. When Evey (Natalie Portman), an employee for the state television network, is rescued from an assault by a masked man known only as V (Hugo Weaving), she is drawn into his campaign to overthrow the government. At first charmed by V’s passion and knowledge, she quickly finds that his methods might be too extreme for her taste. Excellent choreography and bold set design make V for Vendetta an exciting, if melodramatic, thriller.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
After blowing away audiences with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark, cinematic juggernaut Steven Spielberg kept the ball rolling in with the box office smash, E.T. the Extraterrestrial. The film remains just as iconic today as it was upon its release in ’82, and tells the heartfelt tale of a 10-year-old boy (Henry Thomas) and the bond he quickly forms with an alien that’s mistakenly left on Earth. From the iconic moonlit bicycle silhouette to the cosmic communicative power of a modified Speak & Spell, even if you’ve seen the film countless times, there’s always something to jog your memory. Watching E.T. traverse the strange, albeit familiar, landscape of the ’80s is a treat in and of itself. It really is a shame that they replaced the ride at Universal Studios with one modeled after The Mummy….
Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is nothing like his recent films — ahem, Wolf of Wall Street and Silence. It’s a cinematic marvel based on a Brian Selznick novel, one whirling around a 12-year-old orphan who holes himself up in Parisian train station in the 1930s. Nonetheless, it’s a big-budget epic reliant on storybook artifices and brilliant cinematography owing to both the costume design and beautifully-rendered setting. It uses modern techniques, sure, but it’s Scorsese’s seasoned vision of what a family film can be that makes it a standout in a genre lacking artistic nuance.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 thriller features one of Jack Nicholson’s most iconic performances as Jack Torrance, a novelist and recovering alcoholic who takes on a gig as the offseason caretaker at Overlook Hotel, a large winter resort that just so happens to have been built on a Native American burial ground. Jack brings his wife Wendy (Shelly Duval) and young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) with him, hoping to use the time in the secluded resorts as a means to work on his novel. However, when Danny starts experiencing strange visions in the empty hotel, tensions between Wendy and Jack rise, finally pushing Jack to break his sobriety and — under the influence of alcohol, cabin fever, and a malicious, ghostly presence — attempt to murder his family. The Shining has endured as both as one of the hallmarks of the horror genre, and one of Kubrick’s best films.
Great horror films produce a sense of inevitable doom, and It Follows delivers that sensation from the minute you see a teenage girl flee an unseen pursuer. The film follows a girl named Jay (Maika Monroe), who becomes a target of the creature after having sex with her boyfriend. He quickly reveals that the mysterious entity is actually a curse passed through sex — a sort of supernatural STD — and now she must flee or else risk passing it on to somebody else. All the while, the entity slowly approaches her in disguise. Aside from a singular creepy premise, the film features first-rate cinematography; director David Robert Mitchell often uses camera movement and background composition to hide the creature as it approaches, which often leaves viewers wondering where it will strike from next.
A young Dustin Hoffman stars in this 1967 dramedy about the many perils of having an affair with an older woman. Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman), fresh off four years spent at university, begins an adulterous relationship with Mrs. Robinson — the wife of his dad’s business partner. Though the affair eventually ends, Braddock remains burdened by the relationship, especially when he comes to the discovery he’s actually in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine. A superb performance by Hoffman makes this movie a must-watch, and one likely to make any date night a success.