Best movies on Netflix
If you’re new to Netflix and want to find the best movies to watch, or you’re tired of browsing the app for 30 minutes before finding something to watch, you’ve come to the right place. With thousands of movies at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in binge-watching mode, but finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of a hassle.
In an effort to determine the best of the best, we’ve put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by techradar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – so that you don’t have to sift through the muck. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.
Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!
Wake in Fright
One of the most powerful and harrowing films in Australian cinema history, Wake in Fright forces audiences to take a good hard look at Australia’s destructively macho drinking culture. Marooned in a small outback town while he waits for a train to Sydney, schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) stops in at a local pub to pass the time. Sounds innocent enough, right? Unfortunately for John, a chance encounter with a pack of local louts sends him on an incredibly dark odyssey into the Australian heart of darkness. As shocking and menacing as any horror movie, Wake in Fright is an extremely confronting masterpiece that requires a strong stomach.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Drive is the film that made it cool to love Ryan Gosling. Based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, this pulpy thriller is one of the most stylish films of the last decade, having almost single-handedly revived the neon ’80s synth-pop scene. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Only God Forgives), Drive sees Gosling play a nameless stunt driver who works as a shady wheelman by night. When a job goes horribly wrong, this ‘driver’ must dispense violent justice to make things right for those he cares for. The film’s immense influence can be felt across all forms of media – the video game Hotline Miami, in particular, owes a large debt of gratitude to Drive. A loving ode to the early tough-guy crime movies of Michael Mann, Drive is essential viewing.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Possibly the most polarising film on this list, The Fountain is the kind of film that is seen as transcendent by its admirers and baffling by its detractors. By far the most deeply personal film that director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) has ever made, The Fountain is about man’s inherent struggle with mortality, in this case, the inevitable death of a cancer-stricken soul mate. Tommy (Hugh Jackman) is a scientist who’s desperate to find a medical breakthrough to save his dying wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz), but in doing so squanders what little time he has left with her. A story spanning a period of a thousand years, The Fountain has Jackman and Weisz playing different versions of their characters in different eras, from the days of Mayans and conquistadors to a far off future that sees them hurtling through space towards a dying star. While not for everyone, The Fountain is an absolutely heart-wrenching experience that makes you truly appreciate those closest to you. Bring a box of tissues.
IMDB Rating: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
While the first rule of Fight Club may be that you shouldn’t talk about Fight Club, it’s extremely hard to keep quiet about a film as provocative as this. Though its messages are based in extremely dark satire, David Fincher’s film is as nihilistic and anarchistic as any major film studio has ever produced. Violent, gross and incendiary, Fight Club sees emasculated males bash each other’s faces in to make themselves feel manly once more. While the film’s themes are intended in jest, they certainly resonated strongly with certain fans, many of which would go on to start their own fight clubs. Despite being misunderstood by its biggest admirers, Fight Club is one of the must-see films of the late ’90s.
IMDB Rating: 8.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Though Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, was an exceptional film that hinted at his burgeoning filmmaking prowess, his follow-up, The Town, solidified the multitasking celebrity as one of Hollywood’s biggest talents. A bank robber thriller in the vein of Heat and Point Break, The Town is set in a neighbourhood in Boston called Charlestown – described in the film as the ‘bank robbery capital of America’. After taking a lady bank-teller named Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage on a heist, Affleck pursues a relationship with her, hugely complicating things within his bank robbing crew. Will Affleck be able to leave his criminal life behind, or will Claire realise what he did to her and give him up to the authorities? The Town is a nail-biting action-packed adult thriller that will make you see Affleck in an entirely new light. We can’t wait to see him direct The Batman.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Way back in 1999, The Matrix blew audiences away with its amazing special effects, mind-bending sci-fi plot, incredible wire-fu action scenes, wonderfully era-appropriate industrial soundtrack and spectacular bullet-time camerawork. Though writer-director siblings The Wachowskis would eventually follow it up with two lacklustre sequels, nothing could diminish the story of a virtual superhero named Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his awakening from a lifelike illusion. Neo learns that our world is just a virtual construct developed by machines in order to enslave humanity and use us as batteries to keep itself alive – not the best news to wake up to, that’s for sure. In the words of Keanu himself, The Matrix is one film that is guaranteed to make you say “whoa”.
IMDB Rating: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Before he helmed the critically-acclaimed first season of True Detective, Cary Fukunaga directed this raw and authentic tale of two lost souls trying to escape Central America and immigrate into the United States. No easy feat, especially when one of the travellers, El Casper (Edgar Flores), is on the run from the Mara Salvatrucha, a notorious (real-life) gang that he was once a part of, until they murdered the love of his life. A powerful and violent film, Sin Nombre is a good primer for those who are anticipating Fukunaga’s upcoming Netflix Original film, Beasts of No Nation.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
The Shawshank Redemption
Commonly regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman), two men serving time in a hellish prison together, holding on to hope and redemption as a means to survive their many, many years locked up. Will these two friends, particularly Andy, who has always maintained his innocence, ever see the world as free men again? The Shawshank Redemption earns its reputation as the definitive film to make grown men weep – it’s the kind of true classic that must be watched every few years.
IMDB Rating: 9.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
The Silence of the Lambs
Simultaneously terrifying and mesmerising, The Silence of the Lambs is the film that catapulted the fictional character of Dr. Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter to mythic proportions. This brilliantly psychotic serial killer, played with great menace by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the role won him an Oscar, has since gone on be the subject of several films, books and even a fantastic television series. But while his impact on The Silence of the Lambs is huge, the story belongs to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an FBI trainee who is given the task of consulting with the infamous man-eater in an effort to track down a deranged killer that’s skinning his victims. Foster’s role is less showy but more impressive, played with equal parts determination and vulnerability. We fear for her because we see ourselves in her shoes, but also because we get a real sense of what drives her character, both emotionally and mentally. These characters may have appeared in many other films, but The Silence of the Lambs is still the best by a long stretch. A true masterpiece.
IMDB Rating: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Known as the Pixar movie that makes you cry within its opening ten minutes, Up eventually perks up a bit to provide a wonderful adventure tale for the whole family. Elderly widower Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) equips his house with thousands of balloons so that he can float away on the South American adventure that he and his wife always talked about taking while she was alive. Things get complicated when he discovers a stowaway in Russell (Jordan Nagai), a Wilderness Explorer who’s determined to earn a ‘helping the elderly’ badge. Up is a fantastic story about friendship, family and honour, and is easily one of Pixar’s best films.
IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
“Say hello to my leedle friend!” – possibly the most oft-quoted sentence of Al Pacino’s illustrious career, and yet it’s only one of the many fantastic lines spoken by his character in Scarface, an ’80s gangster film fuelled by excess (and mountains of Cocaine). Pacino plays Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who arrives in Miami with absolutely nothing, eventually amassing an enormous drug empire by sheer tenacity (and many spent bullets). With a wildly over-the-top performance from Pacino and stylish direction from Brian De Palma, Scarface is a vulgar, violent must-see for crime movie fans.
IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Director Mary Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner did the unthinkable when they took on the job of adapting Bret Easton-Ellis’ hugely controversial and largely unfilmable book, American Psycho – they looked beyond the source material’s horrendously graphic and seemingly never-ending violence to focus on the scathing satire of the greed-obsessed ’80s buried underneath. Christian Bale solidified himself as one of the world’s most exciting actors in the role of Patrick Bateman, the Wall Street yuppie with an insatiable lust for blood and dinner reservations. Both shocking and hilarious, American Psycho is a remarkably clever cult classic.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
It took an agonising seven years for director Alfonso Cuarón to follow his masterful last film, Children of Men, but what an incredible follow-up! With Gravity, he sure did stick the landing (ahem) and hit this one right out of orbit (I’ll let myself out). This nail-bitingly intense film, in which Sandra Bullock’s character must use her wits to survive in space after a catastrophic shuttle accident, is a technical marvel – the kind of film that wows even the likes of James Cameron, who called Gravity “the best space film ever done.” A perfect marriage of drama and special effects, Gravity is an absolute classic.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
This Is England
A heartbreaking coming of age tale inspired by director Shane Meadows’ own life, This Is England tells the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a lonely, fatherless child (thanks to Maggie Thatcher’s Falklands War) who finds friendship in a group of local teenage skinheads. Though things start off well, Shaun eventually succumbs to the questionable guidance of a violent, racist named Combo (a never-better Stephen Graham) who returns to town after a stint in prison. Will Shaun be able to break away from Combo’s negative influence?
We’re not going to mince words here – This Is England is a genuine masterpiece of British cinema. Also worth watching are its three follow-up television miniseries’ – This Is England ’86, This Is England ’88 and This Is England ’90.
IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
The film that finally won director Martin Scorsese a much-deserved Oscar, The Departed is a brilliant cops and gangsters movie that proves not all remakes of foreign films are bad. Closely based on the hugely successful Infernal Affairs series from China, The Departed relocates the action to Boston, placing undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) under the watchful eye of notorious gangster, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile, Frank has a mole within the department in Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a man who’s been given the task of finding… himself. Can Billy identify the mole before the mole identifies him? Suspenseful, violent and hilarious, The Departed might be even better than its highly regarded source material.
IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time, and with good reason – though it looks old-fashioned on the surface, the film is actually an incredibly progressive Disney princess story with a unique and truly modern take on the ‘true love will break the spell’ plot device that has been used so many times before in similar stories. With terrific songs, loveable characters and a wonderful message that will empower an entire generation of young girls, Frozen is one of the best Disney movies of all time.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Blackfish, the controversial nature documentary that follows a misunderstood and often violent killer whale in captivity at SeaWorld, made a huge splash when it was released in 2013. Its story has moved audiences to take action in a way that few other films have ever done, going so far as forcing lawmakers’ hands to introduce legislation that will demand that SeaWorld release killer whales back into the wild. It’s an emotional ride through the highs and lows of the aquatic entertainment industry, one that reveals the real consequences of keeping animals where they don’t belong.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
The Hurt Locker
Before Jeremy Renner played a badass Hawkeye in Marvel’s glorious Avengers films, he played an even better badass in The Hurt Locker. Following an explosives specialist on a tour in the Middle East, Renner’s character stays cool under pressure while he almost nonchalantly disarms bombs day in and day out. Between a poignant, controversial setting that continues to linger in most American’s minds and Renner’s cockiness and recklessness that borders on suicidal, The Hurt Locker struck all the right notes in a way few war films in the last decade have done.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
The Big Lebowski
Few movies are as quotable as The Big Lebowski. From lines like, “Has the whole world gone crazy?” to anything that “ties the room together,” TBL is a font of famously hilarious dialogue. Peer deeper into the film’s bloodshot eyes, however, and there’s more to love. Excellent acting from Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, an off-the-wall plot that pits nihilist cronies against a burned-out Lebowski and a woman who causes more trouble in 10 minutes than most characters procure in a two-hour film culminate in a must-watch “cult” classic.
IMDB Rating: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
This list is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. On this page, though, what you get is one of the most quintessential movies in American cinema. Yes, Forrest Gump tells the story of a man who falls for a girl and becomes somewhat of a phenomenon from humble beginnings, but, more importantly, it’s a history lesson in how America has grown and changed over the years. Heartwarming, uplifting and inspirational, Forrest Gump teaches us an important lesson: if you’re kind and you work hard, amazing things will happen to you – eventually.
IMDB Rating: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
While other films from the same time period have struggled to stay relevant, The Terminator remains as interesting and unique as it was 30 years ago. Plenty of reboots and sequels have come out since the release and though some have actually transcended the original critically – ahem, Terminator 2 – many aren’t worth the film they were printed on. If you’re looking for a retro masterpiece that holds up to modern-day cinema standards, you can stop searching.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Where Ferris Bueller fed our fantasies of cutting class for an epic day on the town, Almost Famous harnessed our ambitions and played with the idea of a kid writing for Rolling Stone. One part loss of innocence, two parts coming of age story, Cameron Crowe directs the story of a boy who lies about his age to go on tour with a band, falling in love with a groupie and realising that once you discover how the sausage is made, it never tastes the same again.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Rocky, the 1976 film about a nobody boxer who got a chance to fight the world heavyweight champion, Clubber Lang, almost didn’t happen. Stallone wrote the story with himself as the lead actor and refused to sell it until he got his way. The movie companies thought it was good, and even offered him $238,000 for it so long as they could have someone else besides Stallone, who had virtually zero acting experience at the time, cast as the eponymous role. Stallone held out. He had $106 in his bank account when he filmed Rocky. But his real-life resilience translated to his on-screen performance, making Rocky a must-watch.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Quentin Tarantino is loved and revered for his work in American cinema, and lately his takes on classic ’70s movies. Like his take on Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained deals with role reversal in a historically controversial time. The story of revenge and justice, Django (played by Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) set off to hunt down a gang of felons before the ultimate promise of setting Django free. Like other Tarantino films, it doesn’t shy away from the grotesque and gory or mind going against the grain, making it easy to recommend and easier to watch time and time again. And, Netflix also provides QT fans with the ability to stream his classic films Inglourious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs.
IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Beasts of No Nation
As Netflix’s first original movie, Beasts of No Nation had a lot to prove. The VOD scene had traditionally been associated with low budget indies and D-grade horror films, but with Beasts of No Nation, Netflix managed to convince people that high quality (dare I say, Oscar-calibre) films could be streamed at home and shown in theatres at the same time. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective season 1), Beasts follows the loss of a child soldier’s innocence as he’s forced to do unspeakable things. The film hits like a sledgehammer, never shying away from the brutality and horror experienced by this young boy (played masterfully by newcomer Abraham Attah). Equally powerful is Idris Elba’s portrayal as the boy’s remorseless and despicable commander. Though not what you’d call a crowd-pleaser, we hope that Netflix continues to bring us brilliant films like this.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%