How often do you find yourself scrolling through Netflix for an hour trying to find something to watch? The next time that happens, put down the remote for a second and bring up this list.
We’ll be updating this guide to the best movies on Netflix monthly, so all of you aspiring filmmakers out there can keep up with what you need to watch next.
From horror to comedy and everything in between, it’s all gathered right here. We’ll rank each film based on its acting, filmmaking, writing, and overall entertainment value for people bored on Friday night.
Of all the top Netflix movies available to stream, who knows? One of them may well inspire your next project.
Best Netflix Original Movies
A great deal of social upheaval has taken place over the last year. And if you’re interested in learning more about the root of that unrest, just watch 13th from director Ava DuVernay. The film explores mass incarceration in the United States and how it disproportionately impacts Black Americans. It all can be traced back to the passage of the 13th Amendment, which most people learn in high school abolished slavery but actually just altered the definition. The 13th Amendment still allows for slavery except for punishment of a crime. It’s eye-opening, shocking, and will make you want to protest for a better tomorrow.
Good Netflix Movies for Directors
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee’s newest joint about a group of veterans who return to Vietnam to find the remains of their deceased squadron leader as well as a treasure they buried all those years ago. The film shows how Lee is one of our greatest talents today as a director, particularly in the way he films the flashback sequences, which were done with 16 mm film, the stock that would have been available during the time of the Vietnam War. Undoubtedly, this will be remembered as one of Spike Lee’s best films.
Best Movies on Netflix for This Moment
LA 92 (2017)
It’s easy to think police brutality is a recent issue. However, this problem has existed for decades. We’re only just now more aware of it due to more people having cameras. But back in 1992, video footage of the LAPD assaulting Rodney King made waves and resulted in several nights of unrest on the streets of Los Angeles. But this documentary delves further into issues of unrest, also showing footage from the 1965 Watts Riots and the shooting of Latasha Harlins. Martin Luther King, Jr. said riots were the “language of the unheard,” and it’s time for people to finally sit up and listen.
Amazing New Movies on Netflix
Disclosure provides fascinating insight into the transgender experience in modern America. And a big part of that experience involves seeing (often not-so-flattering) portrayals in the media. Featuring interviews with filmmakers like Lilly Wachowski and Susan Stryker, as well as actors, musicians, and producers, Disclosure sheds knowledge everyone needs to know and understand.
Themes of family can be found in Alan Yang’s other Netflix work, Master of None. Tigertail is his feature-length debut as a director, and he’s carried those themes with him into this new film about an intergenerational family’s experiences with trying to attain the American Dream. It’s a quiet yet fleshed-out look at what it means to be an immigrant with all of the characters getting a chance to shine.
Netflix Original Movies
Atlantics is one of the most rewarding cinematic experiences of 2019. It almost feels as if the film created its own genre: Just when you think you know where its plot is headed, it changes direction on you.
That misdirection—that sense of gradual discovery with new narrative development—isn’t frustrating. It’s rewarding.
Older Movies on Netflix
Malcolm X (1992)
Malcolm X provides an excellent template for screenwriters on how to write a biography. It’s epic enough in scope to properly mythologize the man but also personal enough to where he feels human. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington is a collaboration made in movie heaven, and Malcolm X remains top tier on their respective filmographies.
Directors Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht wanted to create an experience as though the viewer was being transported to Camp Jened while watching Crip Camp. They expected people to feel uncomfortable at first but slowly realize how joyous of a camp it is. An audience will get to witness a teen disability summer camp up close and personal, providing an enlightening look at the struggle the disabled community has had in the fight for civil rights.
Must Watch Movies on Netflix
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Da 5 Bloods may be Spike Lee’s latest effort, but filmmakers who want to see where it all began need to check out She’s Gotta Have It. His first film is one of his most revolutionary, particularly for how it portrays its Black female lead as such a ferociously sexual being. With a budget of $175,000 and a production schedule of 12 shooting days, Lee revolutionized American independent cinema.
New Netflix Movies
Uncut Gems (2019)
The Safdie Brothers have a unique way of casting their films. In their other excellent film, Good Time, Robert Pattinson plays a robber on the run, playing against time from how a lot of audiences viewed him. For Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler is playing someone unlike any character he’s ever played. And in both cases, it absolutely works better than it ever should. If you end up liking the film, check out our Uncut Gems screenplay analysis to dive deeper into how the directors put anxiety on the page.
Top Netflix Movies Right Now
Taxi Driver (1976)
Netflix isn’t particularly known for having a ton of older, classic movies. That’s why when a masterpiece like Taxi Driver gets on the service, you should watch it immediately. Before Martin Scorsese was directing Netflix originals, he made the film that would go on to define the 1970s. The story of a disaffected taxi driver who descends further into insanity is still sadly prescient in today’s world, and there’s a lot for film students to dissect from this film from a technical standpoint.
Must Watch Movies on Netflix
Frances Ha (2013)
Frances Ha is content to move at its own pace. While the film’s narrative may wander, you never really mind because Greta Gerwig is utterly charming as the titular character. Frances moves along trying to make something out of life, before discovering what she needs to do to actually have a life in the first place.
It’s one indie comedy that has grown better with age. As millennials like Frances get over and grow discontent with drifting through life, they may also need to make some concessions. Frances Ha is at times funny and others heartbreaking.
What Movies Are on Netflix?
The Master (2012)
Out of all of PT Anderson’s films, The Master might be the most engrossing. That’s in part due to a trio of incredible performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams.
While the film’s critique of cults of personality may have its sights set on Scientology, The Master is more broadly about humans’ need for belonging and stability. It’s PT Anderson’s masterpiece and about as perfect as a film can get.
Amazingly-Directed Netflix Movies
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Adapting Upton Sinclair’s book Oil! proved to be an arduous task. P.T. Anderson studied the oil industry as it was in the early 20th century and took several trips to Bakersfield, CA to learn more about oilmen of the time period. While the movie is based on the novel, Anderson created something all on its own, but the novel became more of a collaborator than a direct source. The result is one of the few films of the 21st century that can genuinely be called a masterpiece.
Oscar-Nominated Movies on Netflix
Lady Bird (2017)
There’s a saying in screenwriting to write what you know. Gerwig exemplified that exquisitely well with Lady Bird, and she was quoted as saying, “Nothing in the movie literally happened in my life, but it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know.” It’s likely for this reason why the script was 350 pages long at one point. Fortunately, she cut the story of a girl wanting more than her small town life to a crisp 93 minutes that anyone who felt different in high school can relate to.
Many movies of late are obsessed with class warfare. From Parasite to Joker, many films explore the division between the upper and lower classes. The Platform follows in this tradition, serving as a political allegory. It takes place in a prison where food is lowered one level at a time until nothing is left for the prisoners at the bottom. Resources literally “trickle down,” so anyone who was a fan of Parasite will also find substance in this sci-fi flick.
Best Movies on Netflix From 2018
Referring to a movie as “slow” may seem like a bad thing (and in some cases it is). But Burning shows precisely how to do a slow burn (no pun intended) well. The characters are engaging, and it subverts your expectations at nearly every turn. It creeps up on you, and you remain at the edge of your seat until your patience is ultimately rewarded.
Top Netflix Movies Right Now
Molly’s Game (2018)
If there’s one thing you learn reading Aaron Sorkin’s screenplays is that he’s fascinated with larger-than-life individuals who have very real drawbacks. Molly’s Game sees The Social Network writer tackle the real life story of Molly Bloom, who had everything going for her but decided to run underground poker games with powerful individuals. It’s a fascinating story held together by Jessica Chastain’s powerhouse performance that deserved more recognition upon its release.
Great Films Finally on Netflix
Zodiac is one of David Fincher’s best films. He creates such a tense atmosphere. Every camera movement is precise, and it’s a nearly perfect thriller. The craftsmanship on display makes sense considering Fincher would sometimes need 70 takes of the same scene before getting it right. He may be a perfectionist, but when the final product is one of the best films of the 21st century, he earns some forgiveness.
Funniest Netflix Films
There’s perhaps no movie genre filled with cliches like the musician biopic. Even by 2007, audiences were familiar with the trope-ridden story structure, making it the perfect time for Walk Hard to come out. Watching it today, it’s amazing how little screenwriters for biopics have learned as you can see many of the tropes made fun of in this film still pop up.
The Essential Netflix Movies List
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It’s no wonder why Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best action movies of all time. It set the template for all other action films to follow from having an incredible opening sequence to casting a charismatic lead to carry the movie. Above all else, it’s just a ton of fun to watch that’s still enjoyable to this day.
Classic Movies on Netflix
Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future is one of those essential films everyone needs to see at least once. There are just so many iconic lines and set pieces that to understand modern pop culture, you really need to see the film for yourself. It’s all the more interesting when you dive into the film’s backstory and how so much could have been different that would have affected the final product, such as Michael J. Fox not being the first actor chosen to play Marty McFly. Luckily, everything came together to deliver a classic.
Best Netflix Originals
I Lost My Body (2019)
With such an unusual plot, a severed hand going on a quest to reunite with its body, this kind of story needs a similar inventive animation. The medium works remarkably well for this offbeat story, creating one of the most idiosyncratic works of 2019.
Feel-Good Movies to Watch on Netflix
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
David O. Russell claims he rewrote the script for Silver Linings Playbook at least 20 times over five years. The film is a tricky balancing act of humor, romance, and a genuine evaluation of mental illness. It took a while, but he finally pulled it off in a film that gives Jennifer Lawrence a chance to show off her amazing acting abilities.
Netflix Movies With Female Leads
20th Century Women (2016)
The female characters in 20th Century Women are based off real women writer/director Mike Mills knew. From the women who raised him to his female friends, Mills dramatized real people to create more compelling characters in his 2016 film. It's those kinds of real touches that make all the characters stand out even more, and the movie excels in really trying to dig underneath these individuals’ skins.
Great Movies to Watch on Netflix
Django Unchained (2012)
The genesis for Django Unchained is that Quentin Tarantino wanted to make a spaghetti western set against the backdrop of American slavery. The film is also part of Tarantino’s efforts to make historical revisionist films, the other two being Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Essentially, it’s the kind of film only Tarantino could make, and thank goodness he did because it’s a blast all the way through.
Teen Netflix Movies
There was a period in the 90s where studios were obsessed with adapting classic literature into movies about teenagers. 10 Things I Hate About You is Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Cruel Intentions is Dangerous Liaisons. And the ultimate 90s teen movie, Clueless, is based off Emma from Jane Austen. The film is a perfect time capsule of 90s fashion, slang, and sensibilities, so anyone who considers themselves a 90s kid definitely needs to watch it.
New Movies on Netflix for 2020
The Disaster Artist (2017)
The Room is an interesting film. It’s not good, which you can tell even from the screenplay, which we analyzed. And yet, it’s managed to earn a cult following, still playing in theaters around the country. The Disaster Artist gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how this famously awful film came to be. The result is an Ed Woods-esque tale about how passion can sometimes compensate for a lack of talent.
The Social Network is arguably the best movie of the 21st century so far. The “Facebook movie” just becomes more and more timely as the social network continues to make headlines and themes of isolation and friendship grow more prevalent in filmmaking. Even as technology continues to evolve, The Social Network will remain an exceptional piece of art for what it represented in the moment it was released and how it continued to evolve.
Dark Netflix Movies
For something to be Kafkaesque, it has to be nightmarishly illogical or complex. Enemy ticks off all those boxes with gusto. The film follows a quiet man who discovers he has an exact doppelganger in the form of a complete stranger. While there are many ways to interpret the film, no matter how you slice it you’re left feeling the same way afterward: unsettled.
Biopics on Netflix
Dalton Trumbo was one of the most prominent figures during the official blacklisting in Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s. While his career was sidelined for a time, he worked tirelessly to ensure him and his compatriots could work in the industry once again. Trumbo is a great tribute to a man who did so much, the least of which was writing the screenplay for Spartacus.
Comic Book Movies on Netflix
V for Vendetta (2006)
Having come out a few years after 9/11, it makes sense why V for Vendetta, a movie about a man who wants to blow up a building for political purposes, didn’t exactly go over well with everyone. With some more distance, the film has some pertinent political themes for today’s climate. You just have to look past the irony of V’s mask becoming a commodified corporate product.
Great Horror Films on Netflix
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Horror films tend to get overlooked around awards season. That’s why it’s so significant The Silence of the Lambs managed to win Best Picture, as well as a slew of other honors, at the Academy Awards. To this day, it’s still psychologically rich and deeply disturbing. It’s become such an influential film in the horror genre, and it’s a perfect showcase for how humans can be the most terrifying monsters of all.
How do you write an iconic movie line? Many films are lucky to get one, but Jerry Maguire has several from “Show me the money!” to “You had me at hello.” If you study the best quotes from romantic films, then you’ll find most of them tend to be short and universal. An iconic line needs to be something practically anyone could say in casual conversation. Screenwriter Cameron Crowe seems to have understood that succinctly, and the many great quotes in the film are bolstered by an overall engaging story and likable characters.
Amy Winehouse had one of the most powerful voices in all of music. For a few short years, she dominated award shows and the radio. And just as soon as she arrived on the scene, she was gone. Amy examines the life and death of the famous singer complete with never-before-seen footage. It’s an amazing portrayal of what fame and personal demons can do to a person so talented and so well-respected.
Adam Wingard’s previous effort, You’re Next, subverted expectations, becoming one of the most gruesomely delightful, and underrated, horror films in recent memory. He followed it up with The Guest, which also leaves you guessing as to what’s about to happen from one scene to the next. It’s best to go into the film knowing virtually nothing, so you can be completely struck with how insane the movie gets.
Animated Netflix Original Movies
The Willoughbys (2020)
There’s a manic energy at play with The Willoughbys. While it’s clearly geared toward children, there’s something also for adults to enjoy, particularly if you enjoyed the work of Lemony Snicket growing up. It follows many of the same beats. A group of kids have guardians who want nothing to do with them and treat them poorly. While that may sound dark, the film comes to a heartwarming message about family that anyone could learn from.
Netflix Streaming Movies
American Honey (2016)
American Honey proves one thing: Shia LaBeouf is one hell of an actor. LaBeouf starred in a stint of popcorn films that rarely gave him much room to showcase his talent, but his range has been on full display for several years now, and that renaissance arguably began with American Honey.
American Honey is a different kind of coming-of-age film, set against a backdrop of partying and debauchery. It’s a challenging film for sure, but if you can make it through its nearly three-hour runtime, you’ll be rewarded.
Best Comedies on Netflix
The Death of Stalin (2018)
Dramatizing the death of Stalin is one thing, but making a comical farce out of the event and the ensuing power struggle must have been a monumental task. The movie was banned in Russia, but anyone who wants to give it a chance will find a hilarious piece of art with timely parallels to our current political state. It’s a superb example of a dark comedy that balances out its varying tones with such expert precision.
Top Netflix Movies Right Now
The Florida Project (2017)
Disney may not want anyone filming at their parks and resorts without their permission, but that didn’t stop Sean Baker from doing so. He used an iPhone 6S Plus and a minimal crew to film some scenes at the resort, and it’s truly intriguing to watch how they kept the aesthetic of the film during those portions. It’s not just a gimmick, either. The idea of Disney World ties into the themes of childhood and how children are uniquely qualified to create their own form of happiness.
Popular Movies Right Now on Netflix
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
You never know what others might think of your film. While Guillermo del Toro described Pan’s Labyrinth as a “profane” film, his peer Alejandro González Iñárritu said it’s a truly “Catholic” film. When you make something as beautiful as Pan’s Labyrinth, it only makes sense people will bring different ideologies into it. It remains del Toro’s best movie and one that will fill you with delight and horror, sometimes simultaneously.
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there’s a different between a Neo Western and a revisionist Western. While a Neo Western typically takes place in the modern day, a revisionist Western often takes place in the past. But a revisionist Western doesn’t abide by the same values as Westerns of the past. The main characters are more morally questionable. And while it may be based on real people or real events, it may change certain aspects to fit more modern sensibilities. Hostiels fits into the revisionist category, taking us back to 1892 but with a more critical lens of the time period.
A good portion of Air Force One’s crew got to tour the real Air Force One for reference before making the film. While they had a good idea of what was feasible inside the plane, they still managed to take some liberties, such as including an escape pod when the real Air Force One has no such pod. However, those liberties can make for more exciting action set pieces. Consider the result is one of the most critically-acclaimed action films of the 90s, the filmmakers likely made the right call.
Best Original Netflix Movies
Horse Girl (2020)
Jeff Baena dug comedy out of tragedy with his excellent Joshy. He returns to similar territory with Horse Girl, a film about a woman battling mental illness who soon finds herself struggling to distinguish dreams from reality. Alison Brie, who co-wrote the script, plays the lead role in a truly remarkable performance, no doubt inspired by something personal in her.
Satirical Netflix Films
Starship Troopers (1997)
Paul Verhoeven is a master of taking what could have been silly films and turning them into satirical works of art. RoboCop is the most obvious example, and while it was often misinterpreted upon its release, Starship Troopers has just as much insight to offer. The film’s comments on war and fascism and still pertinent to this day, which is probably why it’s been held in higher regard in recent years.
Awesome Netflix Movies
Good Time (2017)
The Safdie Brothers are experts at craftins highly tense, anxiety-ridden films. Uncut Gems brought that aesthetic into the mainstream, but it all started with 2017’s Good Time, which has similar frenetic editing and fast-paced plot to put you in the protagonist’s shoes. Once the film’s over, you’ll finally feel like you can breathe.
What Movies Are on Netflix at the Moment?
Making an original zombie movie these days seems like a herculean task. Practically every angle has been taken, but Cargo doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The zombies themselves we may have seen before, but the film instead takes a more character-driven approach, focusing on a father trying to care for his infant. Cargo proves you don’t need to do anything crazy to make a great film. You just need a solid premise and a terrific leading performance.
Great Netflix Movies for Filmmakers
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
What makes a good horror film? You may not think The Killing of a Sacred Deer is horror on its surface, but the way it churns the stomach is similar to what you would get watching any gore fest. You know these characters are heading for oblivion, and all you can do is watch as you recognize their lives are taking a dramatic turn for the worse at every corner.
Netflix Movie List
Coraline picked up the torch from The Nightmare Before Christmas and delivered an entertaining, albeit sometimes frightening, stop-motion animation film. It’s visually stunning, complemented by frames of utter beauty and significant terror.
You don’t need to have a kid to cue up Coraline on Netflix one night. The film has enough emotional weight to ring true with any audience. It’ll remind you of the horrors of childhood while also filling you with hope for the future.
Steven Spielberg’s parents’ divorce in 1960 would go on to influence the themes of many of his films. In fact, when he was a child, he developed an imaginary alien friend who could be the father he felt like he didn’t have anymore. Decades later, that friendly alien would become E.T. It just goes to show that you can write what you know while still reaching for the stars with imaginative plots.
Best Movies of the Decade
Just a few more Netflix binges and your inner film encyclopedia should be up to date (until it’s time to update it all over again). Then, after you’ve seen everything on this list, take your streaming adventures a step further by consulting our list of the best films of the 2010s.