For filmmakers, Netflix is an invaluable resource. With this library of movies at your fingertips, you can watch just about anything. The problem is sifting through the seemingly endless titles to find the really good stuff. If it doesn’t pop up on the main page, you’ve got to search. Fear not, intrepid explorer, we’ve got a playlist for you that will keep you entertained and inspired. Here are the best movies on Netflix for filmmakers (Sept. 2019).

Movies to WatCH ON NETFLIX

1. Brick (2005)

With his latest film, Knives Out, getting some positive buzz, it’s time to go back to director Rian Johnson’s debut feature, Brick. It’s a high school movie injected with pure film noir style. This mashup is more than just a clever gimmick as Johnson embraces both worlds and brings them together effortlessly as if their combination makes complete sense. 

Here’s a red-band trailer to give you just a taste of this wildly cinematic and infectiously cool debut.

“We have apple juice. It’s country style!”

Best Movies on Netflix

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Who knew kung fu could be beautiful? Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had no business being a hit. A foreign language, wuxia film being nominated for 10 Academy Awards? What?! And yet, this film made a huge splash in 2000 and spawned a small but equally powerful run of similarly poetic action films like Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). 

Here’s one of the best fight scenes in Crouching Tiger. Lee is using every formal element to make this scene powerful and cinematic. Slow-motion, sound design, smooth as butter editing, and camera movement turn action into beauty.

“Everyone out. Shut the doors.”

Top Netflix Movies

3. Ex Machina (2014)

Writer Alex Garland gave us scripts for The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later... (2002), Sunshine (2007) and others before he tackled his directorial debut: Ex Machina. It is as sure-footed as any debut feature and it quickly became one of the top films of the decade, if not in the entire sci-fi genre. The visual effects needed to create Ava (Alica Vikander) are basically perfect but there’s so much more to this movie that deserves your appreciation. 

As you’ll see in this extensive making-of documentary, the filmmakers were firing on all cylinders to bring this project to life. The film had a reported budget of $15 million but this truly undersells the production value on-screen.

“Isn’t it strange to create something that hates you?”

Best On Netflix

4. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Netflix recently added a second version of The Hateful Eight to the platform: an expanded “mini-series” version that splits the film up into 4 separate chapters. No matter which version you choose to watch, it is a full dose of Quentin Tarantino insanity. As we’ll see in this interview he did with Christopher Nolan at a DGA screening, the idea for the film came about while watching Western TV shows from the ‘60s. 

If you didn’t know already, Tarantino resurrected a long-dead film format called Ultra Panavision 70, one of the widest aspect ratios (2.76:1) that was ever developed. When you watch the film, pay attention to how much information this wide frame can capture and, as Tarantino discusses, it allowed him opportunities to NOT cut.

“A bastard’s work is never done.”

Best New Movies on Netflix

5. Moonlight (2016)

The one and only Best Picture winner of 2016, Moonlight is a powerful and gripping film. Told in a triptych following a single character through his troubled life, the film is as dramatically engaging as it is beautiful. One truly remarkable thing about this movie is its ability to tell a story of these imperfect and struggling characters without overselling the drama or softening their hard truths. 

In this clip, watch as the DP James Laxton discusses some of the lighting and camera choices for the diner scene at the end of the film. It’s an illuminating look at how using practical lights with swapped out light bulbs can capture an authentic and romantic mood.

“My name is Chiron, people call me Little.”

Netflix Movies

6. Mystic River (2003)

A Shakespearean tragedy set in the slums of Boston, Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River holds up and then some. Shot by Eastwood’s regular DP, Tom Stern, the film is gritty, dark, and highly emotional. Few films can capture a sense of place and history like this one. And the list of strong performances is as long as your arm! Marcia Gay Harden is the definition of heartbreaking, Tim Robbins shows us a haunted and fragmented soul, and Laura Linney is so cold, she will send shivers down your spine.

But perhaps the best acting in the film, and for miles around, is Sean Penn’s turn as a father grieving a murdered daughter. He oscillates between rage, suspicion, guilt, and remorse — giving a dynamic range enough for any actor’s career, let alone a single film. In this scene, he is broken, lost and shows us a fragility that only comes with true loss.

“Jimmy, you’re crying now.”

Netflix Movies List

7. Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer is a high-concept thriller that perfectly melds social commentary, science fiction, and action. It elevates all of those genres and creates something that is wholly original and deeply arresting. With this powerhouse cast, including Chris Evans, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, and Octavia Spencer, the film stays grounded despite its impossible and allegorical premise.

Director Bong Joon Ho has been on a hit streak for the last two decades and his latest film, Parasite, just took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Here’s an interview he did for Snowpiercer as he explains his unique approach to this unique material.

“I love trains.”

New Movies on Netflix

8. Spring Breakers (2012)

On paper, a movie starring Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and James Franco about Spring Break in Florida might give you an idea of what it’s about. But you’d be wrong. You do get what you expect, but the turns it takes will make you wish you hadn’t. Writer/Director Harmony Korine doesn’t do anything people would expect, and that’s what makes him such an exciting and original voice. 

Here is the first part of a Vice interview where Korine discusses his approach, his influences, and how he wanted to complicate the audience’s expectations and provide something that is both fascinating and repellant.

“It was meant to be a liquid mimic a drug experience.”

Good Movies on Netflix

9. Under the Skin (2013)

The last few years have seen sci-fi filmmaking become deeper, more artistic, and as inaccessible as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel, Under the Skin is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It is extremely formalist, with elements of cinema verite that we haven’t seen in decades. Scarlett Johansson plays “The Female,” an alien seducing men before killing them in indescribable and unfathomable ways.

They shot a lot of this film in Scotland using hidden cameras to capture her interactions in reality. Watch this clip as they discuss the making of the entire film, including the van they custom made to include a series of hidden cameras.

“None of those normal constraints exist.”

New on Netflix

10. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Y Tu Mama Tambien wasn’t Alfonso Cuaron’s first film, but it was the one that broke him out. It is a love story but a complicated one, and told with an honesty that we don’t get very often. This film also introduced the world to Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, actors who seem born to play these roles. This film is bursting with energy and it captures characters in a moment in their lives when change is inevitable.

Cuaron recently discussed the film, and he gives us some valuable insight into how the project came to be, and what his aim for it was. He also discusses his latest opus, Roma, and the parallels between both films, both spiritually and emotionally.

“The camera is a ghost from the present who visits the past.”

Up Next

Netflix in October

Now that you've completed your September watchlist, it's time to move onto to October. There are some Halloween-inspired flicks, of course, but it's not all spooks and scares. Catch up on these cinematic greats while you still can!

Up Next: Netflix October 2019 →
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  • Brent Dunham earned his B.A. from USC and an M.A. from Chapman University in Film Studies. He has taught various film courses to students from 7th grade to undergraduates.

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