It should go without saying that Netflix has a ton of movies, perhaps far more than any other streaming service. But no reasonable person could possibly find the time to watch them all. That’s not too different from the theatrical box office, where films come and go often without finding an audience. Fortunately, Netflix’s ever-present algorithm is pretty friendly toward the hidden gems. These underrated flicks may not have been embraced during their initial release, but Netflix has given them a second chance. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, then you’ve come to the right place.
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Disney World may be billed as “the happiest place on Earth,” but the adjacent properties aren’t quite as cheerful. The Florida Project takes a compelling look at children living in poverty while in the shadow of Disney’s massive Orlando theme park. Willem Dafoe stars as Bobby Hicks, the manager of The Magic Castle Motel. Bobby feels protective toward Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and the other children who live at the hotel. However, Moonee’s mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), suffers a series of setbacks that threaten her ability to keep Moonee. With no way to escape her increasingly bleak existence, Moonee embraces the illusion of happiness even as the life she knows crumbles around her.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera
Director: Sean Baker
Runtime: 111 minutes
The Bank Job was inspired by a real bank robbery from 1971. The film is not exactly a historical record, but it is very entertaining. When Martine Love (Saffron Burrows) is blackmailed into retrieving incriminating photographs from a safe deposit box, she turns to her friend, Terry Leather (Jason Statham), to put a crew together. It turns out that robbing the bank is the easy part. It’s what comes after that pushes Terry and his allies to the limit: Not only is the government after them, but the criminal underworld is too.
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Stars: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Richard Lintern, Keeley Hawes, Stephen Campbell Moore
Director: Roger Donaldson
Runtime: 112 minutes
In Berlin Syndrome, Teresa Palmer stars as Clare Havel, a young woman who is backpacking her way through Europe. In Germany, Clare has a fling with Andi Werner (Max Riemelt) and assumes that it will simply be a temporary thing. To her horror, Clare discovers that Andi has locked her in his apartment and refuses to let her leave. Clare also finds evidence that suggests that she isn’t his first victim. As Clare attempts to escape, she navigates an increasingly complex relationship with Andi. And everyone who comes close to discovering Clare’s predicament suddenly finds themselves in grave danger.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich, Emma Bading, Elmira Bahrami
Director: Cate Shortland
Runtime: 116 minutes
One of the most unique things about Wheelman is that Frank Grillo’s title character absolutely refuses to give his name. Regardless, we do get a glimpse of the Wheelman’s life outside of the car through his daughter, Katie (Caitlin Carmichael), and his ex-wife, Jessica (Wendy Moniz). When the Wheelman is hired to be a getaway driver for a bank robbery, he soon discovers that his clients plan to kill him at the end of his ride. Now, the Wheelman has to determine who he can trust and how he can escape with his life as deadly criminals converge to claim the stolen money in his possession.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Frank Grillo, Garret Dillahunt, Caitlin Carmichael, Wendy Moniz
Director: Jeremy Rush
Runtime: 82 minutes
Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies rarely disappoint, but audiences just didn’t respond to Hail, Caesar! when it was released. That’s unfortunate because it’s another sharp Coen brothers comedy about real-life Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). Eddie’s life is a blur of constant crises, from actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) and her scandalous pregnancy to the kidnapping of star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) by disgruntled communist screenwriters. Eddie is also dogged by twin gossip columnists, Thora Thacker and Thessaly Thacker, both of whom are played by the great Tilda Swinton.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Runtime: 106 minutes
We are all the heroes of our own stories. But in Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell’s Harold Crick discovers that he’s not even in control of his own life. Instead, Harold’s entire existence as a hapless IRS agent appears to be at the whim of author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a writer who has a habit of killing off her tragic protagonists. Harold desperately tries to hang on to his life and even finds a romantic connection with Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). But his fate is ultimately out of his hands.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Stars: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson
Director: Marc Forster
Runtime: 113 minutes
In Take Me, Ray Moody (Pat Healy) has an unusual business model. Clients pay him to experience a simulated kidnapping. Ray’s latest client, Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling), wants Ray to go a step further and get physical with her. However, when the kidnapping actually occurs, Anna claims that she has no knowledge about Ray or his business. Ray is forced to question whether Anna is playing mind games with him or if he has been duped into committing an actual crime. And if the police catch Ray in the act, then he may not be the only one to pay the price for his actions.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Pat Healy, Taylor Schilling, Alycia Delmore
Director: Pat Healy
Runtime: 83 minutes
Did you ever watch the hit ‘80s detective series Mindhorn? It’s like Knight Rider, except the cop, Bruce Mindhorn, had a cybernetic eye that let him see the truth. Don’t worry, it’s only a thing within the world of the Mindhorn film. Julian Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, the washed-up actor who played Mindhorn in the TV show. In the present, a murderer named Paul Melly (Russell Tovey) insists upon only speaking with “Detective Mindhorn.” Richard eagerly jumps at the chance to capitalize on his former fame. However, the case is more complicated than Richard suspects, and he may have a chance to be more than just a performer.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Kenneth Branagh, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan
Director: Sean Foley
Runtime: 89 minutes
As the title suggests, The Long Dumb Road is a road movie featuring Tony Revolori as Nathan, an inexperienced young man who is leaving home for the first time to begin studying at an art school. After Nathan’s car breaks down, a mechanic named Richard (Jason Mantzoukas) fixes the problem and requests a ride with him. From there, Richard tries to be Nathan’s guide in his brave new world, but it’s really Richard who needs direction and guidance. Their shared misadventures test their newfound friendship, but this road is anything but dumb.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Stars: Tony Revolori, Jason Mantzoukas, Taissa Farmiga, Grace Gummer
Director: Hannah Fidell
Runtime: 90 minutes
Blood-splattered street fights may not be the first images you think of when you see Killing Eve‘s Sandra Oh and indie film star Anne Heche, but they will be after Catfight. In this odd comedy, Oh and Heche play estranged college friends Veronica and Ashley, respectively, who essentially trade lives after a chance encounter at a birthday party leads to a vicious fist fight between the two. Catfight does a wonderful job of mining humor out of ostensibly mundane situations. If nothing else, Catfight is worth a stream solely based on how hilariously gruesome and bloody the fist fights between mild-mannered adults are choreographed.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Stars: Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Amy Hill
Director: Onur Tukel
Runtime: 96 minutes
Put simply, if you like the mental acrobatics needed to follow along with one Mr. Robot episode, then Buster’s Mal Heart is perfect for you. Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody star and poster boy for digital anarchy Rami Malek plays hotel concierge Buster, who has similar objections to conventional living as Malek’s character from Mr. Robot. The storyline is not linear, with director Sarah Adina Smith doing an expert job of placing you in Buster’s deteriorating mind as the film constantly jumps between his different mental states and odd situations. Buster’s Mal Heart will bend your mind in the most enjoyable ways.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Runtime: 96 minutes
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