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If you have to watch one Netflix movie in April, stream this one

A man and a woman lay next to each other in L.A. Confidential.
Warner Bros.

One of the perks of keeping your Netflix subscription up to date is that you get automatic access to everything new that the streamer releases on a weekly basis. And, indeed, Netflix tries to make sure that there’s something for everyone on the service, from high-brow movies to undeniably compelling reality TV. In addition to all of the original content that Netflix releases, though, the streamer also has archival titles that were released years or even decades before Netflix existed. If you’ve made your way through all of the original content, or you’re finding that none of it seems like a good choice, then L.A. Confidential might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Released in 1997, the movie is set in 1950s Los Angeles and follows three different cops who all interact with the criminal empire emerging in the city. Here are three reasons why you should definitely check it out:

It features an incredible cast

Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, and James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential.
James Cromwell, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey in publicity portrait for the film ‘L.A. Confidential’, 1997. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images) Warner Bros.

L.A. Confidential is loaded with talent from top to bottom. The three central cops in the film are played by Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and (sigh) Kevin Spacey. Crowe, in particular, is incredible as a meathead with a particular aversion to men who beat up women.

They’re joined by an impressive lineup of supporting actors, including Kim Basinger in a crucial role as a call-girl who gets involved with Crowe’s cop. Add in dashes of Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, and David Strathairn, and you’ve got the makings of one of the best casts ever assembled.

It’s perfectly directed

Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce as Bud and Exley looking into a car in L.A. Confidential.
Image via Warner Bros.

Director Curtis Hanson doesn’t get as much credit and recognition as he probably should, but L.A. Confidential is all the evidence you need that he was an incredibly skilled artisan. Working from a pretty impeccable script, Hanson expertly uses lighting and his 1950s setting to create plenty of images that will stick with you long after the credits start rolling.

On top of that, Hanson is totally unafraid of leaning into the visual tropes of the noir as a genre, even the story he’s telling updates some of genre’s worst tropes for the better. Speaking of which…

It’s a smart update on the classic film noir formula

Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential.
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

Although L.A. Confidential is in some ways a standard noir, and it spends plenty of time leaning into the corruption at the heart of the City of Angels, the story also spends plenty of time subverting the gender dynamics at the root of the genre.

Basinger’s call girl may seem like a traditional femme fatale, but she has much more agency and less malice than you might expect. It makes sense that Basinger won an Oscar for her performance, even if she is sadly the only female character with much to do in the story.

L.A. Confidential is streaming on Netflix.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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