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 July
Beverly Hills Cop
If you’ve seen Beverly Hills Cop, chances are you can hear the theme music in your head already. The popular action-comedy bumped Eddie Murphy from “leading man on the rise” to “megastar,” and pretty much embodies ‘80s culture to a T. Murphy plays Axel Foley, a Detroit detective who travels to Los Angeles to investigate the murder of his friend. Hunted by dangerous criminals and aided by bumbling cops — aka Judge Reinhold and John Ashton — Foley soon uncovers a drug ring that forces him to fight for his own survival. Now, if only the next installment in the franchise can capture the feel of the original...
There’s no finer take on high-school cliques than Tina Fey’s Mean Girls. The cult classic stars Lindsey Lohan as Cady Heron, a 16-year-old girl who is forced to attend public school once her family returns from a decade-long research trip in Africa. Lohan joins the school’s most exclusive outfit, but soon finds herself grappling with psychological status warfare when she falls in love with Aaron Samuels. It showcase girl-on-girl cattiness at its best (and funniest).
The Big Short
Based on a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, The Big Short explores the systemic failures that led to the 2008 financial crisis, through the lens of several men who saw the crisis coming and made millions by betting that the housing bubble would burst. The film is broken into several stories, all tied together by narrator Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling), a trader whose path intersects with several of the characters. Director Adam McKay (of Anchorman fame) brings his usual flair for the kinetic and comedic, but here the satire is vicious rather than pleasant. Between the meticulous planning of the protagonists and the frantic direction, The Big Short resembles a heist film, though the score is not a bank vault or rare painting, but the economy itself. The film is also educational, interspersed with strange, humorous segments meant to explain aspects of the housing market, such as Selena Gomez and economist Richard Thaler using a blackjack game to explain synthetic CDOs.
Playing the “long con” has never been so profitable. In this critically acclaimed 1973 crime drama, Robert Redford and Paul Newman join forces to pull off one of the greatest cinematic capers of all time. Redford plays grifter Johnny Hooker, whose thieving ways land him in hot water with crime boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Hooker flees to Chicago to find ex-con Henry Gondorff (Newman) and the two pair up to out-con Lonnegan in a film that won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! The winner of five Oscars at the 72nd Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe), Gladiator follows the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a legendary Roman general whose loyalty to emperor Marcus Aurelius turns out to be his downfall after Aurelius is murdered and succeeded by Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Maximus is forced into gladiatorial tournaments, where he fights to survive and exact revenge upon Commodus for his betrayal. Needles to say, Crowe’s steely performance and the movie’s gritty, intense battle scenes earned it ample upon release.
The Usual Suspects
Noir films often play with perceptions, both the characters’ and the audience’s. This is taken to extremes in The Usual Suspects, a 1995 noir that opens with a massacre on a ship. Eager to find out what happened, customs agent Dave Kujan interrogates one of the two survivors, a frail con man named Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey), who narrates the whole ordeal in a series of extended flashbacks. Kint and four other criminals, after meeting in a police lineup, decide to team up for a for a heist. When they inadvertently steal from an enigmatic crime boss named Keyser Söze, they are forced into taking on a job for him. Naturally, it’s all downhill from there. Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay is one of the most acclaimed of all time, both for the sharp dialogue and the film’s brilliant structure. An outstanding cast, including Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, and Spacey, brings the dialogue to life, and their crackling rapport is a treat.
The Italian Job
After completing a high-stakes gold heist, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and the rest of his crew of bandits are betrayed by one of their own, aka Steve Frazelli (Edward Norton). Frazelli murders team leader John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and makes off with the gold, leaving the rest of the team left for dead. Croker quickly assembles a new band of thieves and con artists and travels to Los Angeles to get revenge on his former friend — and get their gold back. The film is based on the British film of the same name, except this all-star cast includes Seth Green, Jason Statham, Yasiin Bey, and Charlize Theron.
Lethal Weapon is the buddy cop movie to end all buddy cop movies. This crime-action film stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as reluctant partners working to solve a homicide. The investigation leads them to a drug ring — it was the ‘80s, after all — led by retired general McAllister (Mitchell Ryan) and his ex-Special Forces henchman, Joshua (Gary Busey). After three sequels, the series might seem overplayed, but the original Lethal Weapon remains a classic.
Big Trouble in Little China
Ignore the fact that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is starring in a remake of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. The original film, starring trucker extraordinaire Kurt Russell and then-heartthrob Kim Cattrall, remains the kind of cult classic you can only dream up. It appeased Carpenter’s long-standing desire to make a martial arts film when it was made in ’86, telling the story of Jack Burton (Russell) and his heroic encounter with the ancient sorcerer residing beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown. The movie’s premise is over-the-top, especially when you factor in the complicated special effects and the melange of canny references to other iconic films, but it’s the two-fisted Russell that truly gives it a timeless appeal.
Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis, may be the only silent film on our list, but it helped pioneer the sci-fi genre as a whole. The dystopian film revolves around a man of wealth (Gustav Fröhlich) who abandons his privileged life to join a band of oppressed workers in a revolt. The film was initially praised for its technical merits, though not as much for its plot or commentary on society as a whole, but has nonetheless become one of the defining films of the entire 20th century. It won’t blow you away visually, but its historical value belies its technical limitations.
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.
Back to the Future
Many of us often wish that we could go back in time and change a decision that altered the course of our lives, but until science can figure out if that’s even possible, time travel is just wishful thinking. But for teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his friend Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), time travel is all too real. In Back to the Future, McFly is accidentally sent back to 1955 in an experimental Delorean, where he quickly encounters teenage versions of his parents and various people from his life. His actions soon begin to alter the course of history, however, thus forcing the high-school student to get out of the past and back to the present without completely undoing the future. Time travel can sometimes be a confusing mechanism to understand, but thankfully, Back to the Future takes the complex science behind the theory and makes it fun.
Despite the extreme popularity of the Avengers and X-Men cinematic universes, Marvel has a broad pantheon of unorthodox characters that have had their own movies. Blade, a human-vampire hybrid who protects humanity from the children of the night, is by far one of Marvel’s strangest characters to date. Blade II is the second film in the franchise, and most well-regarded in the series. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Blade II finds Blade (Wesley Snipes) striking an uneasy alliance with a group of vampires in an effort to take on The Reapers, a group of mutated vampires who seek to increase their ranks by spreading the “reaper virus” to humans and vampires alike.
This 1978 musical based upon the Broadway show of the same name cemented John Travolta as a superstar in American cinema. Set in 1958, the film follows teenage greaser Danny Zuko (Travolta) as he tries to find love (and look cool doing it). Co-starring Olivia Newton-John, Jeff Conaway, and Stockard Channing, Grease balances innocent summer love with heaps upon heaps of American movie tropes — street racing, gang warfare, poorly timed marriage proposals — to create one of the most popular movies and one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.