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 February 2015
Jeremy Jones is a legend in the world of snowboarding, one who’s name is practically synonymous with big mountain freeriding. In Further, the second installment in a jaw-dropping trio of films by Teton Gravity Research, the freerider and several others skirt the globe in an effort to find some of the world’s most remote and untapped alpine terrain in existence. Renowned riders such as Terje Haakonsen and Ryland Bell join him as Jones tackles everything from the Japanese Alps to California’s Sierra Nevadas, and with the help of his camera crew, the team is able to capture the wide-open powder fields and vertical spines with vivid detail. Gorgeous time-lapses and lively commentary abound, too, rendering the film as personal as it is stunning to look at.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell was a forced to be reckoned with in the early aughts, and though Talladega Nights is no Anchorman, it remains one of the better examples of just how funny Ferrell and director Andy McKay could be when they’re left to their own devices. The plot central concerns infamous NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) and the downward spiral he endures after losing to his gay Frenchman Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), but its ensemble characters such as John C. Reilly and Leslie Bibb that truly build the film’s foundation. The cinematography is also surprisingly excellent given Oliver Wood’s involvement, and the film’s excessive use of product placement only renders it all too real. And then there’s the one-liners. Dear Lord baby Jesus, anyone?
Woody Harrelson made headlines with his excellent performance in the first season of True Detective, but it wasn’t before he took to the laminated lanes as one Roy Munson in Kingpin. The film was created by the brothers behind Dumb and Dumber, and as such, the 1996 comedy showcases as an outlandish sense of humor that never compromises (even when it falters). The film stars Harrelson as a down-and-out bowler who takes it upon himself to mentor an Amish bowling prodigy (Randy Quaid), partly to redeem himself and partly to win the prize money associated with a major tournament. Bill Murray and the lovely Vanessa Angel play Claudia and Ernie McCracken, respectively, each of which brings his or her set of punchlines to the table. Those with a need for good taste, however, need not apply.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Director Robert Zemeckis has done some exemplary films in the past few decades, but none as groundbreaking or enchanting as Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film combined real actors with cartoon characters, focusing on a private detective (Bob Hoskins) who reluctantly takes on the case of Roger Rabbit, a cartoon star who is charged with the murder of a wealthy Hollywood businessman. That said, the central plot is about the only ordinary component of this gumshoe comedy. The real actors interact with Toons in such a matter-of-fact way that it’s convincing to both audiences of all ages, and while Saturday morning cartoons might be aimed at kids, the film’s clever dialogue and Hoskins’ foolproof performance make it one better suited for adults. Same goes for Baby Herman’s off-screen habits.
Full Metal Jacket
Stanley Kubrick’s films are often so jarring, unexpected, and off-putting on first watch that they’re nearly impossible to associate with any other director. Full Metal Jacket, a 1987 two-act ordeal that follows a platoon of marine recruits through basic training and the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, is no different. It’s a grim war film adapted from a Gustav Hasford novel, and as such, it’s filled with eclectic elements that examine brainwashing, our own human limitations, and the emptiness of war. The incredible cast keeps it all afloat — particularly Lee Ermey as the foul-mouth gunnery sergeant — though, it often seems like the characters function as mere set pieces amid Kubrick’s ominous, fantastical landscapes. It never feels quite real, but then again, perhaps that’s the point.
Having talent can be a trying experience; not having it can be worse. That is one of the theses of the 1984 film Amadeus, which chronicles (taking some huge artistic liberties) the complicated relationship between composers Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri, devoted to both God and music, hears in Mozart’s work the voice of the Almighty, yet when he meets the composer in question and finds him to be a petulant, boorish young man, he questions both his faith and the sense that the world is just. The film takes many artistic liberties, particularly with Mozart himself; while most of the cast, composed and drab, would seem at home in a conventional period drama, Mozart himself, with his garish colors and flamboyant antics, seems like a ’70s rockstar transposed to Vienna. Amadeus is a tragedy, but is never dour; it is bursting with life, much like its ill-fated subject.
When it comes to comic book adaptations, few are quite as faithful to their source material as Sin City. Directed by Alex Rodriguez, the film is based on Frank Miller’s noir crime series set in the
Las Vegas facsimile, Basin City, a.k.a Sin City. It tells three separate plot lines that follow grizzled anti-heros John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke), and Dwight McCarthy (Clive Owen) and their individual stories of love and revenge, all of which overlap and affect each other subtly. The film remains remarkably faithful to the comic series, recreating entire panels, using Miller’s original dialogue and character designs, and even maintaining the comic series’ stark monochromatic color scheme which nabbed the film the Technical Grand Prize at its 2005 Cannes Film Festival screening.
Inopportunely released two weeks after September 11, Training Day is a brutal (almost cartoonishly so) examination of police corruption, through the lens of rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a young narcotics officer who is scheduled to undergo an evaluation by senior cop Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). Intent on teaching Jake how to survive the streets of L.A., Alonzo puts him through a series of tests, beginning with smoking PCP-laced marijuana and escalating from there. Alonzo’s view of the law is that the world is comprised of wolves and sheep, and the only thing that stop the wolves is a bigger wolf. Washington’s performance displays all his usual charm, but twisted to villainous ends, and it is fitting that he won his long overdue Best Actor award for this role. Training Day often veers into absurdity, but the relentless pacing and energetic performances from the two leads make it a very enjoyable thriller.
French director Jean-Paul Salomé’s Female Agents is an entertaining film, yes, but it serves more as an ode to true wartime heroines than it does an historical account encompassing the Second World War. The story follows French resistance fighter Louise Desfontaines (Sophie Marceau) and a ragtag group of servicewomen — i.e. a chemist, a cabaret dancer, a prostitute, and a radio operator — as they attempt to kill a German colonel and rescue an English geologist who was prepping the invasion of Normandy. The period piece retains a sense of charisma despite its dark undertones, however, and strong performances by Marceau and Julie Depardieu render it a movie more concerned with what’s at stake than how much suffering one can endure. And in Female Agents, there’s quite a bit of the latter.
Galaxy Quest is equal parts parody and celebration of Star Trek and its passionate fan base. Tim Allan stars as Jason Nesmith, an actor who played a starship captain in a television series called Galaxy Quest. Along with his fellow castmates Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub), Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell), and Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), Nesmith finds himself on board the ship of an alien race known as the Thermians. The group of actors initially believe it all to be an intricate fan film, only to discover that they have in fact been mistaken for their fictional characters by these aliens, who are now seeking their aid in their conflict against the violent warlord, Sarris. The film deftly rides the line between comedy and action, with plenty of loving jabs and knowing winks Star Trek and sci-fi fans will appreciate.
If Wes Craven’s Scream was a postmodern examination of horror cliches, it is only fitting that the sequel examined the very concept of sequels. Set two years after the events of the first film, Scream 2 finds protagonist Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) having moved on from her brush with death, attending college and trying to adjust to life as a famous victim. When a figure wearing the same ghostly mask from the first film begins to murder people on campus, however, Sidney is drawn into a ghastly recreation of the first film’s murder spree. Scream was praised for its witty screenplay that dissected the elements of the slasher genre, and the writing for Scream 2 is just as sharp. While not as fresh as its predecessor, Scream 2 is still a step above the countless imitators that flooded theaters in the late ’90s.
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.
Charade is often referred to as the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made. This is in part because it helped lay the groundwork for many spy thrillers to come, following the charming Cary Grant and Aubrey Hepburn as they embark on a mission to recover a hidden fortune. The repartee between Grant and Hepburn is some of the finest in classic cinema, and furthermore, teems with sudden twists and screwball interactions that belie the film’s more gruesome elements and sardonic commentary. Designer Marice Binder’s animated titles even imbue it with a greater sense of romance and class, much like Olivier Kuntzel and Florence Deygas do years later with Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. Still, the beauty lies in just how nonchalant Grant makes the whole ordeal.