The best movies on Netflix right now (December 2018)

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Netflix offers thousands of movies (and TV shows) via its streaming platform. While the landmark service can be surprisingly accurate with its suggestions, it’s often still tough to find something worth watching amid the deluge of choices. So 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 movies on Netflix right now. Whether you’re into found-footage films, poignant documentaries, or a trip through Hollywood’s Golden Age, our list has you covered. Planning your weekend has never been easier!

Still hungry for premium content? Our brother site, The Manual, has rounded up the best food documentaries on Netflix, as well as the best documentaries on Netflix overall.

Drama

‘Private Life’ (2018)

Now in their 40s, married couple Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) have both found success as writers living in New York City, but despite their fulfilling careers, there’s one thing they want but don’t have: A child. Between their attempts at artificial insemination and adoption, Rachel and Richard are chasing whatever chance they can find. Although they’re both reaching for the same thing, however, the stress of failing to conceive often pits them against each other. Private Life is a beautiful, honest drama, one that explores how relationships, even long-lasting ones, have their ups and downs, and that those peaks and valleys are simply part of life.

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‘Blue Valentine’ (2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is the story of a relationship, its joyous beginning, and bitter end, told through a narrative that jumps back and forth in time. When they first meet, Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a high-school dropout working for a moving company, while Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a med student, but despite their different backgrounds, they end up dating, with Cindy drawn to Dean’s effervescent, romantic personality. After Cindy discovers she is pregnant (though likely with her ex’s child), they start a life together. The film examines them throughout their years together as the two, once so passionate, grow increasingly irritated and somewhat disinterested in each other. It’s a brutal look at the arc of love, and an honest one.

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‘Gone Baby Gone’ (2007)

However one may feel about Ben Affleck’s body of work as an actor, his directorial career has been impressive, a string of acclaimed hits that began with 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, an adaptation of a detective novel by Dennis Lehane. The film follows a pair of private investigators — Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his partner (in work and romance) Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) — who are working on the case of a missing child, a case the Boston police are struggling to crack. As a PI, Kenzie can tap into connections in the criminal underworld that the police can’t, and he soon discovers that the child’s disappearance may be related to her own mother’s shady dealings. Gone Baby Gone is a tense thriller, one that skillfully ratchets up the tension until an unforgettable climax.

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‘The Departed’ (2006)

An adaptation of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed moves the story to Boston and follows a conflict between the Irish mob and the Massachusetts State Police. Mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) has raised a man named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) from childhood to become a mole inside the police department. Meanwhile, the heads of the Special Investigations Unit pick Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a recruit from the police academy, to drop out and go undercover in Costello’s gang. Once both sides realize they have a spy in their ranks, Sullivan and Costigan each race to uncover the other’s identity. The Departed has a long and winding narrative, and every scene is fraught with tension.

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‘Blue Jasmine’ (2013)

Late-period Woody Allen films are hit-or-miss — with a tendency toward misses, to be honest — but Blue Jasmine stands out. It’s a darkly humorous character study with more than a passing resemblance to the classic play A Streetcar Named Desire. The film begins with former socialite Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) arriving in San Francisco to crash with her estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine’s husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), was a financier who kept her in the lap of luxury until he was arrested for fraud. Now in debt, and disgraced, Jasmine is on the verge of a total meltdown. Blue Jasmine is a taut interpersonal drama, with Jasmine’s cultured haughtiness grating against the blue-collar sensibilities of the people she now lives among. Blanchett is incredible in the lead role, and Allen’s writing is as strong as it’s ever been.

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‘God’s Own Country’ (2017)

From director Francis Lee, God’s Own Country is a gorgeous tale of romance set amid the rough beauty of the Yorkshire moors. The film begins with Johnny (Josh O’Connor) living on a farm with his father, Martin (Ian Hart), and grandmother, Deirdre (Gemma Jones). As his father and grandmother are in no shape to handle the physical labor of the farm, Johnny takes care of it, stumbling each evening into drinking and loveless flings with other men. After the family hires a Romanian immigrant, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), to help out with the farm work, he and Johnny grow close. It’s an intimate film, built around subtle performances and Lee’s appreciation for the vast, beautiful countryside.

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‘The Hateful Eight’ (2015)

In the midst of a blizzard, a group of strangers take refuge in a stagecoach lodge. Two bounty hunters, a murderer, and a Confederate-soldier-turned-sheriff are among the rogues assembled, and it doesn’t take long for their uneasy peace to crumble. That’s not to say The Hateful Eight is a fast-paced movie; director Quentin Tarantino takes his time, drawing viewers up a hill of tension before sending them hurtling into violence. With an all-star cast including Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and more, The Hateful Eight is a worthy addition to Tarantino’s sterling body of work.

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‘The Godfather’ (1972)

A perennial entry on “best films of all time” lists (with a 99-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, too), The Godfather is an epic, award-winning crime drama, following a mafia family, the Corleones, as they navigate conflicts with rival families and a family succession. Beginning in 1945, the film opens with aged Mafia boss Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) managing his family’s empire, granting requests to his vassals. His youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), returns home from World War II as tensions with the Tattaglia crime family are simmering. As the five big crime families of New York descend into open war, Michael steps into the family business, at a cost to his soul. Director Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the screenplay with novelist Mario Puzo, and it’s a long, novelistic film, focusing as much on the spiritual crises of its characters as the violent, political squabbles. The Godfather is also a masterpiece of directing; the famous baptism scene, in which a series of assassinations are juxtaposed with the baptism of a child, is a showcase for the power of editing.

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‘Mudbound’ (2017)

Netflix doesn’t just make original TV shows; the company is also producing original films, and some, like Mudbound, are quite good. True to its name, Mudbound wades through the muck of racism and poverty, examining two families, one white, one black, living on a farm in 1940s Mississippi. The farm’s owners are the McAllans, who move there after Henry (Jason Clarke) buys the land. Along with his wife, Laura (Carey Mulligan); and viciously racist father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks), the McCallans work the land with the help of black sharecroppers, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence Jackson (Mary J. Blige). The film explores the ways in which these two families navigate the social hierarchies of the time, and the chaos that ensues when two sons, Jamie McCallan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) return from World War II. The thick mud of the McAllan farm is both the setting and central metaphor for the film, and the camera captures it beautifully.

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‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ (2017)

Noah Baumbach delivers yet another witty, intimate drama with The Meyerowitz Stories, which follows a dysfunctional family who, when reunited for the first time in a while, try to hash out their differences. The head of the family tree is Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman), a once-great sculptor now spending old age growling about everything. His children — Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller), and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) — all live in their father’s shadow, and all carry long-buried burdens, and they struggle to find value in their own careers. The Meyerowitz family is a web of tensions, the strings slowly stretched to their breaking points, and the cast delivers performances worthy of the material. Emotionally complex and sharply written, The Meyerowitz Stories is so good you’ll forget it’s yet another family drama set in New York.

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‘Boyhood’ (2014)

Boyhood’s central conceit is well-known — director Richard Linklater filmed it in pieces over the course of 12 years, using the same actors to trace the growth of a young man and his family. The boy in question is Mason Evans (Ellar Coltrane), who starts the film as a 6-year-old boy living with his mother (Patricia Arquette) and sister (Lorelai Linklater) in Texas. Boyhood follows Mason up to his first day of college, and the film is comprised largely of the small moments that compose a life — those that often pass without fanfare. Linklater’s decision to use the same actors over more than a decade proves crucial; by the time a teenage Mason hops in his truck, driving along a sunbathed highway toward the future, the weight of time hits the viewer. It’s a heavy feeling that few films could replicate.

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‘Spotlight’ (2015)

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative work done by a team of Boston Globe reporters, the must-watch drama Spotlight tells the true story of how they uncovered evidence of systemic child abuse by clergy in Boston’s Catholic community. Their work finds them at odds with the Archdiocese of Boston, an institution with great power in the region. Spotlight features a superb cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber. It’s a compelling film that captures the meticulous work of investigative reporting, but blessedly, never devolves into melodrama.

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