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 Films of All Time on Netflix
Jurassic Park (1993)
Through a combination of robotics and CGI, the dinosaur effects in Jurassic Park hold up better than many special effects within the last 10 years. But the effects make up one small part of why Jurassic Park has held up so well all these decades later. From relevant themes to likable characters, there’s much that audiences can still learn from this film whether you’re interested in a career in film or not.
New Netflix Original Movies
The Half of It (2020)
There are some films you watch and wonder why no one has ever made it before. The Half of It takes a cue from Cyrano de Bergerac when a friendless high school student writes love letters for a jock to the popular girl, whom she also has a crush on. It goes to show the true power in taking familiar premises and finding a way to tell them in a relevant way to modern audiences.
A Filmmaker’s Guide to Netflix Movies
There’s a lot of philosophy and science fiction present in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, those lofty ideas tend to take a backseat to focus on the primary relationship between Joel and Clementine. This is what makes the film work so well. Philosophy is nice, but it gets dry when you focus so much attention on it within a narrative. There’s much to dissect within this film, but the reason people keep coming back to it is due to the central relationship between two people trying to forget one another.
Top Rated Movies on Netflix
On its surface, Spotlight shouldn’t be as engaging as it is. It’s largely devoid of conflict and instead follows the journalists as they gradually piece together pieces of the story concerning abuse in the Catholic church. In fact, many of the scenes that didn’t actually happen concern authority figures warning the journalists to stay away from this story (i.e. the scenes that add conflict). However, Spotlight appropriately shines a light on a story that needs to be remembered so that no one forgets the sins of the past.
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.
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.
Dark Netflix Movies
Nightcrawler is a unique story in that its protagonist, Lou Bloom, has no character arc. He’s an unethical person at the beginning and remains that way throughout the film. He doesn’t learn any lessons by seeing the dark sides of capitalism and consumer demand. Instead, he embodies the worst components of those ideas. He shows what kind of person you have to become the make it in the world, and the answer is a sociopath.
A Filmmaker’s Netflix Movies List
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Safety Not Guaranteed shows the evolution of the mumblecore movement. It takes characters typical in classic mumblecore films, namely slack-jawed losers with no direction in life, and puts them in a romantic comedy featuring a smidge of time travel. It’s a movie with modest ambitions but excels thanks to how charming it ends up being.
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.
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.
Top 50 Netflix Movies
Salma Hayek had to fight vigorously to get Frida made. She even sought out the administrator to the rights of Frida Kahlo’s works to secure paintings for the film. You can see that passion in every scene Hayek is in, making this a biopic that stands apart from many in its class.
Netflix Original Documentaries
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.
Fun Netflix Movies
A Knight’s Tale (2001)
A Knight’s Tale is perhaps most noteworthy for its incorporation of classic rock despite being set in the 1300s. It’s a deliberate choice that ultimately works in the film’s favor. Amongst all of the knights and jousting and Chaucer, the soundtrack helps the movie carve out a unique identity among others in its genre. It’s subtle humor that pays off in a big way.
Classic ‘80s Movies to Watch on Netflix
The Karate Kid (1984)
Screenwriter Robert Mark actually got beat up by bullies and started practicing martial arts in order to protect himself. This served as the basis for what would ultimately become The Karate Kid. An old tenet of screenwriting is to “write what you know.” Even something mundane like getting beat up by bullies, which plenty of people can relate to, can serve as the inspiration for one of the greatest sports movies ever made.
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.
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.
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.
Must Watch Movies on Netflix for Sports Fans
Seabiscuit has a classic sports movie formula. It centers on Seabiscuit, an overlooked and undersized race horse who goes on to great success. There are plenty of underdog sports movies, but Seabiscuit manages to be a step above by focusing on a sport not often seen in film. The racing sequences are truly wondrous to behold, and they surely paid a role in the film being nominated for seven Academy Awards.
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.
Great Movies on Netflix From the ‘90s
Donnie Brasco (1997)
There are numerous mafia movies out there. But what makes Donnie Brasco one of the best gangster movies of all time is how it divides time equally between the mob and the FBI. You get a more complete picture, and people on both sides appear as real people. Plus, the performances from Johnny Depp and Al Pacino are second-to-none and add real gravity to what could have been another forgettable mobster picture.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix
There’s been a lot of commotion over the years about whether Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg did most of the directorial work on Poltergeist. But in recent years, cast members have come to the side of Hooper, insisting he was the one there every day setting up shots and blocking actors. As a director, it’s tough when so much rests on your shoulders and people try to take it away from you. But Poltergeist avoided the fate of so many other films and managed to be a huge success despite a struggle for creative control from various sources.
Latest Netflix Movies to Stream
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Breaking the fourth wall is typically done for comedic effect. However, Fiddler on the Roof does it for a much different reason. During those moments, Tevye discusses important concepts to the Jewish community. It gives the audience time to reflect on the musical’s themes before we get back into another number.
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.
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.
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.
Top Rated Netflix Movies for Kids
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made careers taking ideas that shouldn’t work and turning them into bonafide hits. From a reimagining of 21 Jump Street to a movie about LEGOs, a movie about raining food somehow fits perfectly within their filmography. They’re a prime example of how there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Just bad execution.
What Movies Are on Netflix This Month?
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sleepless in Seattle is a classic romantic comedy for a reason. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable. And you can feel that spark even though the two only meet at the very end of the film. It proves the true power of excellent writing and casting.
Older Netflix Movies
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Anyone interested in art direction needs to watch The NeverEnding Story. From the sets to the creatures, a lot of imagination went into every component. Sure, it may look quaint by today’s standards, but that almost works in the movie’s favor. It has a unique aesthetic, and you can’t confuse the film for anything else.
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.
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.
Good Netflix Movies for Film Directors
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
How do you adapt one of the most famous English works of all time? For screenwriter Deborah Moggach, it consisted of being fairly faithful to the source material. The structure and dialogue from the novel remains largely intact, but when you have one of the greatest romances ever written at your disposal, you don’t exactly need to reinvent the wheel.
Fantastic Netflix Originals
The Platform (2019)
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.
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.
Romantic Movies on Netflix
The Notebook (2004)
Plenty of films like The Notebook have come out over the years. So why have none of them really had the same level of success? We think it really comes down to casting. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is unparalleled. And the dynamic between those two is what has helped keep the film a cult classic.
Popular Movies on Netflix This Month
The Addams Family (1991)
Before Barry Sonnenfeld was hired to direct, the job was offered to Tim Burton. It’s interesting to think of what Burton would have done with material that seems so clearly up his wheelhouse. But maybe it was for the best. Separated from Burton’s aesthetic, the titular family seem uniquely out of place in the relatively straightforward world around them, resulting in a classic kids’ film.
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.
Oscar-Winning Films on Netflix
The Queen (2006)
Helen Mirren so perfectly encapsulated the essence of Queen Elizabeth that crew members actually began to sit up straight any time she walked past. Mirren’s performance is must-watch material for actors who want to hone their craft. Everything from Queen Elizabeth’s facial expression to her delivery is wonderfully recreated and shows just how much Mirren studied her subject so that she could fully embody this multi-dimensional character.
Classic Movies to Watch on Netflix
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Many films have tried to imitate what Stand and Deliver was able to accomplish. The story of a teacher reaching inner-city kids is well-worn territory at this point, but this film proves how with stirring speeches and an exceptional lead performance, your film can inspire.
Superb Crime Movies on Netflix
The Town (2010)
A great deal of research went into studying Boston and its residents to make for more believable characters. In fact, many locals joined the production as extras. It goes to show the importance of remaining authentic down to every last detail. And you can break down everything you need in your script so that you don’t overlook a single detail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good Sci-Fi Netflix Films
Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall is based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” However, the film takes many liberties from the source material, becoming more “Hollywood” in the process. Fortunately, with Paul Verhoeven at the helm, the film manages to maintain a unique aesthetic and tone that makes it stand out from being just another generic sci-fi action film.
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.
Netflix Films for Aspiring Film Directors
Killing Them Softly (2012)
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, many movies dealt with themes related to capitalism and greed. Killing Them Softly is a great example and turns the focus into the realm of small-time organized crime. The movie isn’t subtle with what it’s trying to say, but it’s entertaining and since it’s removed several years past 2008, it can turn a critical eye onto the events that transpired that year.
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.
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.
Horror Films to Watch on Netflix
The Guest (2014)
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.
Funniest Films on Netflix
There have been numerous Star Wars parodies over the years. But none quite reach the heights of Spaceballs. The reason for this can likely be attributed to the fact that it’s clear Spaceballs has a loving reverence for the original material, and it creates its own mythos. The jokes work whether or not you’ve seen Star Wars, but if you have, then you’ll appreciate this satirical work.
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.