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!
We also have a roundup of what’s new on Netflix, complete with release dates and picks, as well as guides to the best shows on Netflix, best movies on HBO, best movies on Hulu, and the best movies on Amazon Prime. Our brother site, The Manual, even has even rounded up the best food documentaries on Netflix.
Beginning as the Civil War is approaching its end, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln follows President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he tries to secure the passage of the 13th Amendment, which would end slavery. Wanting Congress to pass the amendment before the Confederate states return to the Union, Lincoln must wrangle votes from not only the Democratic opposition, but fellow Republicans such as Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), who has a more radical vision for the future of the nation. Lincoln is a stately drama, with immaculate direction, a script of towering power, and an incredible performance by Day-Lewis.
‘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.
‘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.
‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)
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, one that examines brainwashing, our own human limitations, and the emptiness of war. The incredible cast keeps it all afloat — particularly R. Lee Ermey as the foul-mouthed gunnery sergeant — though it often seems like the characters function as mere props amid Kubrick’s ominous, war-torn landscapes. It never feels quite real, but then again, perhaps that’s the point.
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.
‘Boogie Nights’ (1997)
The opening scene of Boogie Nights is flashy, a single take where the camera moves through a nightclub, introducing all the major players. It’s a somersault from director Paul Thomas Anderson, but it’s not there merely for flair. Boogie Nights is about the glamour and grime of the ’70s porn industry, a seen through the career of one Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). From the moment porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) discovers him (and his prodigious endowment) working in the nightclub, Dirk is immersed in a life of sex, drugs, and emotional collapse. Boogie Nights is a wild ride, full of exciting highs and abyssal lows, and Anderson manages mood perfectly throughout.
‘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.
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.
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.