If you’re looking for the best movies to watch on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve put together an expertly curated selection of some of the most exciting, compelling, emotional and funny movies currently streaming on Netflix. While it can be daunting thumbing through the streamer’s catalogue to find out what to watch, we’ve taken the guesswork and mindless scrolling out of it. This post will be frequently updated with new recommendations, keeping you up to date with all the Netflix movies you should be prioritizing in your queue.
So peruse our list of the best movies on Netflix right now below, and happy watching!
Road to Perdition
After winning the Oscar for Best Picture with “American Beauty,” filmmaker Sam Mendes tackled a film of a very different sort: the neo-noir crime thriller “Road to Perdition.” Set in 1931, the film stars Tom Hanks as a mob enforcer who is forced to go on the run with his son, seeking vengeance against the mobster who murdered the rest of their family. Paul Newman plays the mobster in question, while Jude Law plays a hired hitman hot on their trail. It’s a gorgeously crafted crime drama, featuring Oscar-winning cinematography from Conrad L. Hall.
War of the Worlds
Steven Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation of “War of the Worlds” is not just an alien invasion film – it is very much a film about 9/11. Spielberg framed the story of alien invaders as his commentary on 9/11, and the fallout afterwards. The film is told entirely from the point of view of a single father (played by Tom Cruise) watching his kids, and the audience never sees anything they don’t see. It’s a masterful chronicle of panic and confusion, and the lengths to which people will go to keep themselves and their loved ones safe in the face of impending danger.
Something’s Gotta Give
If you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie, you can’t go wrong with a Nancy Meyers film — and her 2003 romantic comedy “Something’s Gotta Give” fits that bill. The film stars Diane Keaton as a successful playwright who is forced to look after her daughter’s much-older boyfriend (Jack Nicholson) after a heart attack, and against all odds these two complete opposites begin to attract. The film has the wit and humor of Meyers’ other films, but also a strong emotional center as the story of a successful 50-something single woman. Keaton and Nicholson are both pretty terrific here, and as with all of Meyers’ films, the house at the center of it is to die for.
If you’re in the mood to watch a mind-bending thriller, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster “Inception.” Written and directed by Nolan, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who is proficient in performing heists within the subconscious of individuals who are subdued. He’s offered one last job in exchange for his freedom, and assembles a crew to perform a task thought near-impossible — planting an idea inside someone’s head. Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Michael Caine co-star in this action-packed adventure with surprising emotional heft.
2013’s “Her” is an underrated masterpiece, plain and simple. Written and directed by Spike Jonze (who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his work on the film), the story takes place in near future Los Angeles and follows a lonely and introverted man named Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who boots up a new Operating System with artificial intelligence. Dubbed “Samantha” (and voiced by Scarlett Johansson), this new OS begins learning about the world through interactions with Theodore, which in turn cause Theodore to fall in love. While the premise sounds like it could be silly, Jonze’s humanistic approach to the story and Phoenix’s gentle performance result in a wildly emotional, romantic tale about life and loss and love.
How to Train Your Dragon
A tremendous family film if there ever was one, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon” is an uplifting, deeply compassionate animated adventure. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup, a Viking living in a village with his father who struggles to fit in. When he befriends a dragon – creatures thought by the Vikings to be violent and terrifying – Hiccup begins to see the world differently, and in turn convinces his friends and family to check their prejudices and consider the world from a different point of view.
One of Christopher Nolan’s very best films, “Dunkirk” is best described as a historical thriller. The film recounts the true World War II story of how the allied troops in Dunkirk were evacuated by sea in a harrowing event. Nolan splits the film up into three timelines – what’s happening on the beach, the boats coming in by sea, and the planes in the air above trying to provide support. It’s a thrilling and emotional film, anchored by supporting performances from Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Barry Keoghan and Harry Styles.
If you’re in the mood for a dystopian sci-fi thriller that’ll make you think, check out “Gattaca.” The 1997 film presents a future in which eugenics ensure that children are born possessing the best possible genes, with a few “traditionally conceived” humans perceived as less than by their peers. Ethan Hawke is one of these traditionally conceived humans, but his desire to become an astronaut leads to him making a deal with Jude Law’s character — conceived through genetics and, by all accounts, a perfect specimen — in which he will impersonate him and get to go to space. Drama, intrigue, and emotional chaos ensue all while the film presents moral dilemmas aplenty.
Fair warning: Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller “Contagion” will feel incredibly familiar and may be triggering for some. But if you feel like taking the jump, the dramatic thriller is oddly comforting in the wake of our own real-life pandemic. The film charts the rise of a deadly global pandemic from various points of view, with an ensemble cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, Bryan Cranston and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Is “Top Gun” cheesy? Yes. Is it a little dated? Absolutely. But does it still rule? Unequivocally. The film that catapulted Tom Cruise to movie star status is streaming on Netflix just in time to catch up before the sequel hits theaters later this year. Cruise plays a cocky pilot who gets the chance to train at an elite Navy school, where he makes friends, enemies and lovers. Tony Scott directs this thing with gusto – you can practically feel the summer heat coming off the frame, and Cruise is dynamite in the lead role.
Tim Burton is known for his whimsical visual style, but his 2003 fantasy film “Big Fish” combines that with one of his most personal stories. The film finds a man played by Billy Crudup sitting by his father’s (Albert Finney) deathbed, as he regales his sone with tall tales from his life story. Flashbacks reveal the events exactly as the father tells them, with Ewan McGregor filling the role of the younger man who joins a circus, falls in love and even takes part in some international espionage. This one builds to a tremendously emotional finale.
Hell or High Water
If you’re a fan of “Yellowstone,” you’ll want to check out creator Taylor Sheridan’s 2016 neo-Western crime film “Hell or High Water.” The film stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as a pair of brothers who carry out a series of bank robberies in order to save their family ranch, and are put on the radar of two Texas Rangers played by Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham. Sheridan wrote the script that was then directed by David Mackenzie, and the film is a slow-burn crime thriller with complex characters that builds tension, inch-by-inch, until its explosive finale. The film picked up Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actor for Bridges.
Truly a perfect film for all ages, 2014’s “Paddington” is far better than it has any right to be. Based on the Paddington Bear doll, the film tells the story of a mild-mannered bear who moves to London where he’s taken in by a kind yet somewhat cautious family. Shenanigans ensue as Paddington seeks out an explorer who once offered his family an invitation to come to London, all while he’s hunted by an evil taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman. This film is full of unbridled compassion and kindness.
The first film to ever earn a woman an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography, 2017’s “Mudbound” is a moving and compelling historical drama. Directed by Dee Rees and shot by Rachel Morrison, the film follows two World War II veterans as they return home to Mississippi, one white and one Black. Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund and Mary J. Blige anchor the terrific ensemble cast as the film tackles race relations in the past with a direct line to our present, packed with rich and complex characters.
Arguably the best James Bond movie ever made, 2006’s “Casino Royale” forever changed the franchise and introduced Daniel Craig as a more vulnerable iteration of the character. It’s also a blast and a half. The film is a semi-origin story for 007 as it rebooted the series to focus on a younger and more green James Bond who is tasked with sniffing out a bankrupt terrorist financier (played by Mads Mikkelsen), and along the way he teams up with a treasury employee played by Eva Green. The film is intense but also surprisingly humanistic and sensitive, with Bond and Vesper considering the impact of actually killing another human being. And yet, given that this is a James Bond movie, it’s also suave and thrilling.
The Other Guys
Before Adam McKay started directing more serious fare like “The Big Short” and “Don’t Look Up,” he perfected a specific kind of comedy movie, largely with Will Ferrell. The 2010 film “The Other Guys” feels like a bridge between McKay’s sillier work and his more socially conscious films, as it follows a pair of cops working in the background (played by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) who begin to uncover an embezzlement conspiracy involving the CEO of a major company. There’s plenty of material taking aim at corporate America, but there’s also Will Ferrell singing a song called “Pimps Don’t Cry.”
If you want to watch one of the scariest movies ever made, check out “The Exorcist.” Released in 1973, the film stars Ellen Burstyn as a mother beside herself when her daughter (played by Linda Blair in a chilling performance) becomes possessed. Max von Sydow is the priest called upon to perform an exorcism, and the film patiently chronicles the process from beginning to end. William Friedkin directed the adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel, and its images are still ingrained in the minds of anyone who’s seen it.
Before “The Florida Project” or “Red Rocket,” filmmaker Sean Baker burst onto the scene with his 2015 comedy “Tangerine” – shot entirely on an iPhone. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez stars as a trans sex worker living in Los Angeles who finds out that her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her. While it looks like an indie and tackles some heavy material at times, the film has the tone and pacing of a raucous comedy, and is all the better for it.
While “The Master” may be filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson at his most serious, “Phantom Thread” is him at his most playful. The acerbic romance stars Daniel Day-Lewis in his final onscreen role before his retirement and is set in 1954 London. Day-Lewis stars as a famous fashion designer who takes his meticulous process seriously. But when he strikes up a relationship with a waitress, his routine starts to get shaken up, and he must consider the impact said relationship will have on his work. This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s version of a twisted romantic drama, and the film is surprisingly funny.
The Social Network
Quite simply one of the best films of the 21st century, David Fincher’s “The Social Network” feels more relevant each and every day. The film chronicles the origins of Facebook through the eyes of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his college friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), covering the ups and downs of those early years and the Machiavellian maneuvering that saw Eduardo shoved out of the company he helped create. This is a tremendously entertaining and biting film that never fails to get old, boasting an Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and an Oscar-winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
The Power of the Dog
Writer/director Jane Campion’s 2021 drama “The Power of the Dog” is a powerful and surprising film about, among other things, family. Set in 1925 Montana, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons play a pair of brothers whose strained relationship is pushed to the limit when Plemons marries a widowed single mother (played by Kirsten Dunst) on a whim, and brings her son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) to live with them on their ranch. The performances are top-notch all around, as Campion crafts a complex and tension-filled character-centric drama that’s certainly one of 2021’s best films.
tick, tick… BOOM!
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with the Netflix musical “tick, tick… BOOM!,” based on the autobiographical stage musical by “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson. Andrew Garfield plays Larson, who is on the cusp of turning 30 and has yet to have a masterpiece staged on Broadway. As he puts the finishing touches on his sci-fi rock epic, he grapples with his own anxieties, his crumbling relationship with his girlfriend, and the impending AIDS epidemic that’s taking his friends far too quickly. The songs are incredible and the direction is inspired, but Garfield’s electric and soulful performance makes this a must-watch.
Stand by Me
Friendship, family troubles and dead bodies abound in director Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic “Stand by Me.” Based on a short story by Stephen King, the film is narrated in flashback form as a man remembers a Labor Day weekend in 1959 when he and his friends went out looking for a dead body. During the course of their journey, their own personal home struggles bubble to the surface, and the film lays bare how those childhood friendships feel like the entire world at the moment, but are sometimes more melancholy upon reflection. The ensemble cast includes Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and Kiefer Sutherland.
If you’re in the mood for a great Western, try the Coen Brothers’ take on “True Grit.” The 2010 film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Charles Portis and tells the story of a 14-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a drunken lawman (Jeff Bridges) to help her find the man who has murdered her father. Matt Damon is along for the ride as an uppity Texas Ranger, and Josh Brolin plays the murderer in question. This is a quest-type Western boasting incredible cinematography from Roger Deakins and a beautiful score by Carter Burwell that puts a twist on classic hymns.
This one might come with a “For Cinephiles Only” warning, but if that describes you there’s much to love in David Fincher’s 2020 film “Mank.” Gary Oldman stars as Hollywood writer Herman J. Mankiewicz as the film chronicles his experience writing the screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” all while flashing back to events from his life that inspired certain characters and themes in what many consider to be the greatest film ever made. Fincher presents the film entirely in black-and-white (it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography), and Amanda Seyfried gives a terrific performance as Marion Davies while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compose a surprising original score.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
If you’ve ever yearned for a scary movie made specifically for pre-teens or early teenagers, then “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is for you. Too scary for kids but tame enough for a slightly younger crowd, the horror film is based on the book of short stories by Alvin Schwartz and weaves together iconic stories and imagery from its source material to craft a horror mystery set on Halloween night in 1968, led by a group of teenagers.
Kathryn Hahn has made a career out of scene-stealing supporting performances, but she takes center stage in writer/director Tamara Jenkins’ 2018 dramedy “Private Life.” Inspired by Jenkins’ own experience, Hahn and Paul Giamatti star as a middle-aged New York City couple struggling through infertility who decide to try and have a child through IVF. The film follows the ups and downs of infertility in heartbreaking detail, while also finding moments of humor throughout that ring true to life. Hahn and Giamatti are spectacular together, as they also chronicle how their journey strains their marriage.
The Coen Brothers are known for their dry sense of humor, but the duo try their hand at screwball comedy (in their own way) with their 2016 film “Hail, Caesar!” The story takes place over the course of one day in the Hollywood film industry in the 1950s, as told through the eyes of a fixer played by Josh Brolin. The film is rooted in historical fact, but as Brolin’s fixer works through his day, various Hollywood-based shenanigans ensue with a robust ensemble cast that includes George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand.
Before Rian Johnson helmed “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” he first entered the sci-fi realm with his excellent 2012 thriller “Looper.” The film opens in the year 2044 where a 25-year-old man named Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a crime syndicate that murders people who are sent back in time from the year 2074, as a means of disposing of the bodies. But when his older self (played by Bruce Willis) shows up, he’s forced with an existential dilemma. On top of all of this, Emily Blunt plays the mother to a child who may or may not grow up to one day be one of the most evil person of the planet, and the two Joes – young and old – find themselves operating in the same timeline. This is fascinating sci-fi that’ll make you think.
For something whimsical, funny and full of great performers, the 2007 film “Stardust” is a great watch. The film hails from “Kingsman” and “X-Men: First Class” director Matthew Vaughn and stars Charlie Cox as a young man who lives in a fictional town that borders a magical fantasy kingdom. When a literal star falls from the sky, played by Claire Danes, he comes under the thumb of evil witches, led by Michelle Pfeiffer. The surprising ensemble cast also includes Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Ricky Gervais and Robert De Niro as a pirate.
The Mask of Zorro
Before “The Mummy” or “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” there was “The Mask of Zorro.” The 1998 film is based on the classic TV series of the same name, but director Martin Campbell injects this 19th century-set tale with enough intrigue, adventure and swashbuckling to keep a grin on your face from beginning to end. Anthony Hopkins stars as the original Zorro, who has been in prison for 20 years. When a hapless bandit played by Antonio Banderas breaks him out, he sets about training him in the ways of Zorro to help rescue his daughter, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, from the clutches of the man who first put him in prison.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This Western anthology from the Coen Brothers is a delightful romp that builds to a shockingly emotional conclusion. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is made up of six different stories set in the Old West, each featuring different characters. Themes of mortality, morality and justice are prevalent throughout “Buster Scruggs” just as they are through the Coens’ other films, but this time all against a wonderful, slightly exaggerated Western backdrop. The stellar cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach 2019’s drama “Marriage Story” is, ultimately, a divorce story, but it’s so richly drawn and beautifully acted that you’ll find your own heart breaking as you watch the conscious uncoupling of a pair played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. This is far from a mean-spirited or even depressing film. Instead, while it does indeed chronicle the dissolution of a relationship (inspired by Baumbach’s own life) and how the divorce impacts their young son, “Marriage Story” smartly always keeps an eye on one very important fact: while these two individuals may be splitting up, that doesn’t mean the love they once had for each other wasn’t real. Driver and Johansson are terrific, and Laura Dern is a scene-stealer in her Oscar-winning supporting turn.
If you’re into thrillers, you may dig “Uncut Gems” – but fair warning, this movie will stress you the heck out. From filmmakers The Safdie Brothers, the story follows a jewler and gambling addict played by Adam Sandler as he tries to retrieve an expensive gem in order to pay off his debts. The film plays out in semi-real time, as the Safdies put the viewer right in the middle of Sandler’s film-long panic attack. This is absolutely one of Sandler’s best performances.
2015’s “Steve Jobs” never got the respect it deserved, but now that it’s on Netflix it’s the perfect time to catch up with this underrated gem. The crackerjack screenplay by Aaron Sorkin captures the essence of the Apple founder in three distinct acts – the story plays out in three different time periods and follows backstage events just before the launch of three different products, the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1986, and the MacBook in 1998. Michael Fassbender is stunning not only in his performance, but his delivery of a mountain of Sorkin dialogue as the film chronicles the conflicting truths of Steve Jobs the man: a genius, a jackass, a fighter, a futurist and a short-sighted revenge-seeker. Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg deliver excellent supporting performances, while director Danny Boyle captures each section in a distinct visual fashion (Act 1 in 16mm, Act 2 in 35mm and Act 3 in digital).
One of the more inventive horror films of the last decade, 2014’s “It Follows” is all the more impressive considering the supernatural presence at the heart of the movie isn’t actually seen onscreen. It goes like this – if you have it, it follows you everywhere until you pass it on to another person through a sexual encounter. Then it’s their problem. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell crafts a terrifying and patient horror film, anchored by a swell performance from Maika Monroe as the latest victim of “it” who is trying to figure out how to shake this supernatural follower.
The Sparks Brothers
You don’t need to know anything about the band Sparks to find “The Sparks Brothers” a tremendously entertaining documentary. This marks the first documentary feature from “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver” filmmaker Edgar Wright, whose passion for Sparks – “your favorite band’s favorite band” as they’re described – bleeds onto the screen. Through interviews with the two Sparks brothers and a number of celebrity fans, as well as archival footage, the film takes a trip through the unique and genuinely stunning five decade (and counting) career. If you like music documentaries, check this one out.
Coming-of-age movies are a dime a dozen, but “Lady Bird” stands among the best of the best. Writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film is a triumph of storytelling as it chronicles the journey of a smart high school senior (played by Saoirse Ronan) who struggles through various strained relationships as she prepares to go to college. Set in Sacramento, the film draws from Gerwig’s youth as it captures a wickedly relatable teen story that traverses the love, heartbreak and loss that come with growing up. The movie scored five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Ronan.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can enjoy, the 2021 Netflix original “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is an emotional crowd-pleaser that’s as funny as it is inventive. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film follows a family going on a cross-country road trip to send their eldest daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to college, where she hopes to learn how to become a filmmaker. The family isn’t on the best terms when the road trip begins, which makes things even trickier when a robot uprising occurs, leaving the dysfunctional Mitchells as humanity’s last hope. This is a hilarious, colorful and heartfelt story about the importance of communication.
Netflix has a wide variety of documentaries to choose from, but Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film “13th” is a must-watch. The doc delves into mass incarceration in the United States, and how race and injustice intersect with the issue, through the prism of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolishes slavery except as punishment for a crime. Through a number of interviews, DuVernay examines why a disproportionate number of Black people are incarcerated in the U.S., and how the current justice system perpetuates this injustice.
If you’re in for a fright, James Wan’s 2013 horror hit “The Conjuring” is one of the scariest movies in years. The film is based on the real-life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and finds the two (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) called to a Rhode Island farmhouse where strange happenings point to a supernatural presence. The jump-scares in this one are above and beyond anything else in the entire “Conjuring” franchise.
One of the great things about Netflix is how it has a little bit of something for everyone, and in that vein, the YA-skewing “Enola Holmes” is a delight for the teenaged crowd (and beyond). Based on the young adult series of the same name by author Nancy Springer, the film stars Millie Bobby Brown as the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola leaves the safety of her home compound and ventures into London to try and solve this mystery. Along the way, however, Enola learns that her mother kept many secrets of her own. This is a rollicking mystery-adventure that’s also a sweet and substantial coming-of-age story, all wrapped up in a gorgeous 19th century Victorian package.
Set It Up
If you’re into romantic comedies, you simply must check out “Set It Up.” This Netflix original is a throwback in the best way, as Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have that Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks chemistry in a story about friends turning into lovers. They play overworked assistants to demanding bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) and hatch a plan to set their bosses up in an effort to earn more free time themselves. But their scheming puts them in frequent close contact, during which sparks fly.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before Taika Waititi took audiences by storm with “Thor: Ragnarok” and won an Oscar with “Jojo Rabbit,” he crafted a wonderfully whimsical comedy called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” The film stars Julian Dennison as a troubled youth who goes on the run with a cantankerous man (played by Sam Neill) when both are being hunted through a remote part of Australia. The film is packed with Waititi’s signature sense of humor and unique style, and Dennison and Neill make for one heck of a dynamic duo.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
The Netflix original comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is not just an incredibly funny film, it’s a surprisingly emotional one too. Based on an original idea by Will Ferrell, the “Elf” actor stars as one half of an Icelandic duo alongside Rachel McAdams, both of whom are thrust into the spotlight when they’re unexpectedly selected to compete in the international singing competition Eurovision. The film is packed with some genuinely great songs, and a sweet story about staying true to your roots in the face of immense growth.
The Fear Street Trilogy
Everyone loves a good scare, but the “Fear Street” trilogy gives you three times the thrills for the price of one overarching story. These three interconnected films trace the origins of a witch’s curse on a small town, covering events in 1994 in the “Scream”-inspired first film, then heading back to 1978 for the summer camp slasher sequel, before concluding in the year 1666 for the third and final feature that reveals the origin story of the Shadyside witch. Colorful, fun and genuinely scary, the “Fear Street” trilogy tells a truly epic horror story.
The Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is full of surprises. While the film begins by chronicling Swift’s career, complete with the ups and downs it encompassed, it soon morphs into the origin story of a feminist as Swift begins to speak out on socio-political issues important to her. It’s a fascinating window into the management of fame, as some around her caution against making any kinds of political statements for fear of alienating her fanbase. Swift is honest throughout – or as honest as a documentary like this can be – and the film doesn’t shy away from tough moments like Kanye West infamously interrupting her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
The most successful film of his career thus far, “Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino through and through. This original Western is set just before the official outbreak of the Civil War and stars Jamie Foxx as Django, an escaped slave who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz in an Oscar-winning role) to rescue his kidnapped wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). This is a Western epic as only Tarantino can tell it, complete with gratuitous violence and a darkly humorous streak running throughout, all while the film doesn’t shy away from laying bare the horrors of slavery.
Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour-and-40-minute gangster epic “The Irishman” is best viewed in one sitting – trust me. The brilliance of the film is in its construction, as Scorsese charts the career of a hitman for the mob from the 1950s up to the present day. But unlike the bombast of “Goodfellas,” this is a film where regret and grief hang over nearly every frame, subtly building until the mournful third act hits you like a ton of bricks. Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran spends his entire life killing people, and what does it all add up to? Scorsese gets downright philosophical with questions of morality and mortality, crafting a self-reflexive film about what it means to come to the end of your life and look back on what you’ve done, why you did it and whether it was all worth it in the end.
Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a great comedic talent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his best dramatic acting chops thus far are exemplified in the 2013 film “Rush.” Directed by Ron Howard, this biographical sports drama stars Hemsworth as British Formula 1 driver James Hunt and chronicles his 1970s rivalry with Austrian driver Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl). The racing scenes are absolutely thrilling, and the story lays bare these drivers’ determination while also delving into what drives each of them to compete.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
One of the best animated film series in recent memory is the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy, and while Netflix only has the second movie available to stream, it’s well worth your time regardless of whether you’re familiar with the franchise or not. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” picks up five years after the young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has convinced his Viking brethren to make peace with dragons instead of fear them, and the story finds Hiccup warding off a gang of dragon trappers while stumbling across his long-lost mother. As with every film in this series, “HTTYD 2” is full of emotion and compassion – make sure tissues are handy.
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror movie, but it’s a great watch for Spooky Season (or any time of year) regardless. Guillermo del Toro’s original story is a Gothic romance through and through, as Mia Wasikowska stars as a budding author living in 1900s New York who marries a kind yet mysterious man (Tom Hiddleston) and then moves into the decrepit mansion he shares with his sister (Jessica Chastain). When she arrives at the mansion, however, Wasikowska’s character discovers it’s full of secrets and ghosts. While the film is creepy, it’s not a full-on scare-fest – nor is it trying to be one. This is a sorrowful, ghastly story of love and what happens when our past won’t let go.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee is not known for making bland films, and indeed his 2020 Vietnam veterans drama “Da 5 Bloods” is confrontational in the best way. The story revolves around four aging Vietnam War veterans who return to the Southeast Asian country to search for the remains of their fallen leader — and also a trove of buried treasure. Along the way they confront their own fears and differences, as Lee’s film delves into how America left an entire generation of soldiers behind.
Netflix is host to a ton of great documentaries, including “Crip Camp.” This Oscar-nominated 2020 film begins by showcasing archival footage from a camp in the 1970s that was created for teens with disabilities, before then following various individuals as they fought for disability rights. It’s a moving portrait of activism that shows just how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we have left to go.