February 21, 2023

The 30 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

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    Julie and Julia. Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing

    This post is updated regularly as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.

    With hundreds of films from around the world on the streaming giant that changed the game, how does one even know where to start when they’re looking for something to watch? Start here! We have gone through the massive catalog of films available on Netflix and pared down the selection to an essential 30 titles, including action films, comedies, horror flicks, and even stuff for the whole family, with Netflix Originals peppered in throughout, alongside its licensed films. These are films that came from outside the Netflix pipeline to subscribers, and it will be regularly updated as flicks come and go from the Netflix catalog, starting with our pick of the week.

    This Week’s Editor’s Pick

    *Julie and Julia

    Year: 2009
    Runtime: 2h 3m
    Director: Nora Ephron

    The writer of so many rom-com classics profiled two women in this critical and commercial hit, Nora Ephron’s last before her death. It tells the dual stories of the world-famous chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and a NYC writer (Amy Adams) who sets out to cook every recipe in Child’s cookbook in a year, chronicling her journey on a popular blog.


    Apocalypse Now

    Year: 1979
    Runtime: 3h 16m
    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Interestingly, the only version of one of the most acclaimed war films of all time that’s currently on Netflix is the “Redux” edition, the longer cut that was released in 2001. At that time, Coppola collaborated with his editor Walter Murch to reincorporate 49 minutes of footage that were cut from the initial release. It’s not the generally preferred version, but it’s still a gut punch of a war movie, a real look at the heart of darkness that beats in the American military experience.

    The Aviator

    Year: 2004
    Runtime: 2h 50m
    Director: Martin Scorsese

    Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s incredibly detailed and lavish period piece about one of the most infamous eccentric millionaires of all time. It feels like every other month produces a bit of social outrage about Scorsese’s place in movie history, or his comments on Marvel movies. Ignore that noise and just watch one of his works that doesn’t get nearly enough praise, anchored by one of DiCaprio’s best performances and some of the most impressive aerial cinematography of all time. 

    Brokeback Mountain

    Year: 2005
    Runtime: 2h 14m
    Director: Ang Lee

    Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this romantic drama, one of the best films of the ‘00s. Adapted from the short story by Annie Proulx, Ang Lee’s film is tender and heartbreaking, the story of unaccepted love between two men in the American West. It features some of the career-best work from Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams.

    Call Me by Your Name

    Year: 2017
    Runtime: 2h 6m
    Director: Luca Guadagnino

    One of the best films of the 2010s, this drama stars Timothée Chalamet as a boy who discovers his own sexuality when he’s wooed by an older man, played by Armie Hammer. Delicate and moving, this is a remarkable drama because of how true it feels, anchored by great performances throughout, not just from the two leads but the amazing Michael Stuhlbarg too.

    Emily the Criminal

    Year: 2022
    Runtime: 1h 36m
    Director: John Patton Ford

    This excellent indie thriller has really built an audience since it was added to Netflix. Get on the bandwagon before somebody recommends it to you. Aubrey Plaza does career-best film work as Emily, an L.A. woman who is struggling to pay off student loans when she’s presented with a low-level criminal opportunity. It gets worse from there. A riveting commentary on the gig economy, it’s a must-see. 

    The Founder

    Year: 2016
    Runtime: 1h 55m
    Director: John Lee Hancock

    An underrated biopic, this is the story of the man who made a fortune with a little company called McDonald’s. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the businessman who knew that brothers Richard (Nick Offerman) and Maurice McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) made a world-changing burger. Smartly written and well-performed, this is worth a reappraisal.

    If Beale Street Could Talk

    Year: 2018
    Runtime: 1h 59m
    Director: Barry Jenkins

    Following up on a Best Picture win can be tough for any filmmaker but Barry Jenkins delivered with this lyrical and moving adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin. It stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, and the Oscar-winning Regina King in the story of a young couple struck down when he’s wrongly charged with a crime. It’s a masterful drama from one of the best American filmmakers.

    The Power of the Dog

    Year: 2021
    Runtime: 2h 6m
    Director: Jane Campion

    The film that finally won an Oscar for Jane Campion for directing is one of the most acclaimed in the history of the streaming giant. Campion helmed this adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, the story of a vicious landowner (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) of his brother (Jesse Plemons). A drama that plays like a thriller, this gorgeously rendered period piece unpacks themes of toxic masculinity and manipulation in a way that makes it impossible to turn away. It’s not just one of the best Netflix Original films, it’s one of the best, period, of the 2020s so far.

    Road to Perdition

    Year: 2002
    Runtime: 1h 57m
    Director: Sam Mendes

    See, Tom Hanks doesn’t always play the nice guy. In Sam Mendes’ adaptation of the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, America’s dad plays a mob enforcer seeking revenge. What’s most memorable about this 2002 film is Mendes’ remarkable attention to period detail. It’s a gorgeous film just to live in for a couple hours. Don’t do this one on your phone.

    The Swimmers

    Year: 2022
    Runtime: 2h 15m
    Director: Sally El Hosaini

    This Netflix original follows the true story of Yusra and Sarah Mardini, who became refugees from Syria after war broke out in their own country, making their way to Germany. The first half of the film is a terrifying dramatic thriller about survival under the most extreme conditions, while the second details how Yusra became a part of the Refugee Olympic Team, competing in the Rio Olympics. It’s a bit too long but it’s also undeniably moving.


    The Lord of the Rings trilogy

    Year: 2001-3
    Runtime: 2h 58m
    Director: Peter Jackson

    The Oscar-winning franchise by Peter Jackson bounces around the streaming services with alarming regularity, now finding its way to Netflix for an indeterminate amount of time. Watch the entire saga of Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gange, and the rest of the Fellowship while you can. 

    The Mask of Zorro

    Year: 1998
    Runtime: 2h 17m
    Director: Martin Campbell

    Every now and then, an actor and a blockbuster role just make a perfect fit. That was certainly the case when Antonio Bandera’s was cast in Martin Campbell’s reboot of the legendary character of Zorro. Banderas is so charming here that the movie made enough money to produce a sequel in 2005, which is also on Netflix. 

    Minority Report

    Year: 2002
    Runtime: 2h 25m
    Director: Steven Spielberg

    One of Steven Spielberg’s best modern movies is this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story about a future in which crime can be predicted before it happens. Tom Cruise stars as a man who is convicted of a crime he has no intent of committing in a fantastic vision of a future in which the systems designed to stop crime have been corrupted. It’s timely and probably always will be. 

    The Quick and the Dead

    Year: 1995
    Runtime: 1h 45m
    Director: Sam Raimi

    Before he made superhero movies but after he made horror ones, the amazing Sam Raimi was given his biggest budget to date for this 1995 Western with style to spare. Sharon Stone plays a gunfighter who ends up in a town called Redemption, ruled with iron fist by a tyrant played by Gene Hackman. Russell Crowe and a young Leonardo DiCaprio star in a film that’s become increasingly appreciated in the years since its release.

    The Raid 2

    Year: 2014
    Runtime: 2h 30m
    Director: Gareth Evans

    Gareth Edwards wrote, edited, and directed the insane follow-up to his breakthrough hit that takes everything he did with The Raid and turns it up to 11! Like incredible action choreography? Unbroken takes? Stunts that defy the laws of physics? The Raid 2 is quite simply one of the best action movies of the last decade, a thrill ride from beginning to end. 

    Reservoir Dogs

    Year: 1992
    Runtime: 1h 39m
    Director: Quentin Tarantino

    One of the only Quentin Tarantino flicks on Netflix right now is his first effort, a movie that announced a major new talent as much as any debut of the ‘90s. Remarkably, unlike a lot of ‘80s and ‘90s debuts, Reservoir Dogs works just as well today. It would arguably be an even bigger hit if it came out in 2023. That’s how much QT influenced the form for three decades and counting after its release. 

    Road House

    Year: 1989
    Runtime: 1h 54m
    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    As production on a remake of this cult classic (with Jake Gyllenhaal!) gets underway, why not go back and check out the original again? Patrick Swayze plays the bouncer at a totally average Missouri bar who ends up getting sucked into a violent world when he crosses paths with the wrong bad guy. Sam Elliott and Kelly Lynch star in a movie that feels like a perfect distillation of the many charms of Mr. Swayze. 


    Year: 1976
    Runtime: 1h 59m
    Director: John Avildsen

    The one that started it all is on Netflix, waiting for you to do a catch-up before seeing Creed III in a few months. Go back almost five decades now to see the start of the Rocky Balboa saga in a film that truly took the world by storm, becoming the highest grossing film of 1976 on its way to winning Best Picture and making Sylvester Stallone a household name. 

    Top Gun

    Year: 1986
    Runtime: 1h 49m
    Director: Tony Scott

    Tom Cruise reminded everyone that he is really the last true movie star with the amazing success of this film’s sequel in 2022, a movie that’s likely to be a major player at the Oscars soon. Why not go back to the original and see how the story of Maverick and Iceman rocked the world over 35 years ago? A lot of this is pretty dated now, but in a way that makes the nostalgic ride even more fun (and will make you appreciate Maverick even more). 



    Year: 1985
    Runtime: 1h 38m
    Director: Michael Ritchie

    One of Chevy Chase’s best screen performances came in the 1985 comedy based on the hit novels by Gregory McDonald. The character of a reporter nicknamed Fletch who gets drawn into an investigation after being asked to kill a millionaire is perfect for Chase, blending his physical comedy ability with that oversized ego. 

    Glass Onion

    Year: 2022
    Runtime: 2h 19m
    Director: Rian Johnson

    The writer/director of Knives Out returned in late 2022 with a sequel to that smash hit, exclusively on Netflix. Daniel Craig returns as Benoit Blanc, the casual crime solver who finds himself on a billionaire’s island in Rian Johnson’s latest comedy/mystery. Once again, Johnson assembles a murderer’s row of talent, including Kate Hudson, Janelle Monae, Ed Norton, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., and more. It’s smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining.


    Year: 1978
    Runtime: 1h 51m
    Director: Randal Kleiser

    John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John changed the course of the movie musical with the wildly beloved flick about the kids at Rydell High. Based on the 1971 stage musical of the same name, Grease was a massive hit, and still draws audiences to theaters and on cable over four decades after its release. 

    Jerry Maguire

    Year: 1996
    Runtime: 2h 18m
    Director: Cameron Crowe

    One of Cameron Crowe’s best films became something of a punchline with its heavily quoted lines (“Show me the money,” “You had me at hello,” everything that cute kid says) but it’s actually a character-driven romantic comedy that has held up incredibly well in the quarter-century since its release. Tom Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who is pushed into starting his own agency while he falls in love with a single mother, played by Renee Zellweger. It’s sweet, smart, and funny.

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    Year: 1975
    Runtime: 1h 29m
    Director: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

    During a hiatus between the third and fourth seasons of Monty Python’s Family Circus, the gang of mega-talented comedians decided to make movie history. Inspired by the King Arthur legend, Holy Grail is a timeless comedy, the rare kind of film that will still be making people laugh hundreds of years from now. And while the Monty Python boys were already famous, this film took them to another level, cementing their place in movie history.

    Sorry to Bother You

    Year: 2018
    Runtime: 1h 52m
    Director: Boots Riley

    Lakeith Stanfield stars in the directorial debut of the leader of The Coup, a film that shook audiences at Sundance but still feels a bit underrated. With a style that blends hip-hop culture with the surrealism of satirists like Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry, this comedy takes no prisoners. Stanfield plays a telemarketer who works his way up a corporate ladder to discover the truly dark secrets that live on the higher rungs. It feels like a movie that more people will find on services like Netflix and could shape future comedies to come.


    Gerald’s Game

    Year: 2017
    Runtime: 1h 43m
    Director: Mike Flanagan

    Before he helmed The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan co-wrote and directed one of the best Netflix Original horror films in this adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name. Carla Gugino is phenomenal as a woman who gets handcuffed to her bed by her toxic husband…and then he has a heart attack. As she tries to figure out how she will survive, she accesses the trauma of her past.

    Shutter Island

    Year: 2010
    Runtime: 2h 18m
    Director: Martin Scorsese

    In 2010, Martin Scorsese released his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s best novel, the story of a U.S. Marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) who investigates a missing patient at a legendary mental hospital. Scorsese is in full command of his skill as a craftsman in this riveting thriller that also co-stars Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams. It’s one of the most underrated films of the last decade.

    For Kids


    Year: 2018
    Runtime: 1h 38m
    Director: Mamoru Hosoda

    One of the best Japanese filmmakers alive, Hosoda has earned fans with films like Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Belle. One of his best is this 2018 fantasy movie, which actually became the first non-Ghibli anime film to ever get nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It can be a little hard to follow, but it’s one of the most visually striking films on Netflix, or any streaming service.

    Wendell & Wild

    Year: 2022
    Runtime: 1h 46m
    Director: Henry Selick

    The director of A Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline finally returned this year with this clever and twisted tale co-written by Oscar winner Jordan Peele. The comedian also co-stars as one of the title characters, the literal demons for a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents. Selick is a master of stop-motion animation and this project allows him to stretch his visual prowess in new, gross ways. It’s a new Halloween classic (that can be watched any time, of course!)

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