The best movies on Netflix have started to dwindle compared to the good old days, but the streaming giant still has a robust selection to choose from. They have an especially impressive genre collection, especially horror and cult films. But Netflix also knows how to do romance, controversy, and real-life stories in equal amounts. At Zimbio, it’s our job to sift through the Netflix movie sandbox and find precious gems. We know the best ones to watch and the worst ones to skip. We’ve already curated the best TV shows to watch right now. Keep scrolling and you’ll find our picks for the best films on Netflix as well.
One area Netflix has really stepped it up movie-wise is in original content. Netflix Original Films are everywhere, as we’re sure you’ve noticed. The streaming service is now also a full-on production house and distributor. Netflix has made some great Original Movies in 2018, and they’ve got more planned for the future. Mix in a large selection of non-original studio movies as well and your menu should be fully stocked with some of the best Netflix movies.
Netflix Originals are always going to be the freshest movies on the site, but it hosts some exciting new releases as well. Avengers: Infinity War arrives on Netflix in December along with older favorites like The Big Lebowski and Shaun of the Dead. Streaming on Netflix doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with the most current films. Here’s proof. These are the best movies to watch on Netflix right now.
1. The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974)
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, James Caan, John Cazale, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton
This list isn’t ranked, but let’s start with the best anyway. Want to call yourself a film buff? GF1 and GF2 are required viewing. Which is better is one of the age-old arguments in film. Based on Mario Puzo’s novel, both films follow the travails of the Corelone family. The Godfather himself, Vito (Marlon Brando), is an aging boss whose sons are eager to take over the family business. All except Michael (Al Capone), who’s fresh out of the army and has kept his nose clean. An assassination attempt on Vito, however, is making him reconsider.
Part II picks up where the first film left off as Michael secures his position as head of the Corleone family following his father’s death. He wants to make the business legitimate, but he still has enemies and every move he makes is watched. Meanwhile, the sequel flashes back to Vito Corelone’s (Robert De Niro) youth in Sicily and New York City and we learn how the business was built. The two films are best watched together. Directed by Frances Ford Coppola, they’re each landmarks in Hollywood history and perhaps the best gangster movies ever made. Both won the Best Picture Oscar. (Godfather III is also available on Netflix, but it pales in comparison to the first two.)
2. No Country For Old Men (2007)
Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Root, Garret Dillahunt
“I don’t want to push my chips forward, and meet something I don’t understand.” The aged sheriff (Jones) can only sit back and wonder at the violence in front of him. Local hunter Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) comes across a “jackpot,” a shootout where everyone’s dead. He finds a suitcase full of money, takes it, and seals his fate. Somewhere near, Anton Chigurh (Bardem) is tracking the cash. He’s cold-blooded killer with a particular set of principles and he’s coming for Moss. The cat and mouse chase is one of the best ever put on film. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy and directed by the Coen Brothers, No Country is awash with talent. The 2007 Best Picture winner will rock you, keep you in suspense, and have you pondering life’s existential questions. You will not see a better film anywhere.
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz
Steven Spielberg’s classic is perhaps the most dramatic look at the Holocaust ever put on the big screen. The Best Picture winner tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Polish factory worker who employs over 1,000 Jewish people, saving them from Nazi concentration camps, during World War II. But there’s plenty of suffering first. Spielberg’s movie details the day-to-day effort the Nazis took to exterminate Jews across Europe and he hones in on a select few characters to speak for the masses. The film is absurdly authentic and unforgettable. Liam Neeson is a force as Schindler. Ralph Fiennes is a monster as commandant Amon Göth, but they are both only players in a vision much larger than two men. The film will take you back in time and make you face it all.
4. Ex Machina (2015)
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Caleb (Gleeson) has won a chance to work with his boss, Nathan (Isaac), for a week. The guy’s a boy genius-turned-billionaire who owns a Google-like company and lives in a futuristic compound like a Bond villain. He’s also just built a world-changing artificial intelligence named Ava (Vikander) and he wants Caleb to Turing test it — to determine if the machine exhibits intelligence indistinguishable from a human.
The trick of Ex Machina is in its profound story. In many ways, the movie is a kind of Turing test itself. Is Ava a beautifully rendered vision of science-fiction or a redundant microcosm of how women are treated in film (and life)? It’s hard to believe the story would work the same way if Caleb and Ava’s genders were reversed. HAL never tried to seduce Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but film history is filled with female sex bots, from Metropolis to Blade Runner to Her. Caleb only responds to Ava based on his own predilections as a heterosexual male, and we do the same based on our own histories. The film is a sociological case study and so is watching it.
5. Wind River (2017)
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal
Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) has quickly made a name for himself in Hollywood after years writing for Sons of Anarchy. His stories are hard-boiled, violent portraits of America you won’t see on the Disney Channel. Wind River, Sheridan’s directorial debut, is a cold thriller set on an Indian reservation in Nowheresville, Wyoming. After a girl is found dead in the woods, an FBI agent (Olsen) enlists the local Fish and Game hunter (Renner) to help her find a human predator. What they discover is a brutal secret set to explode when it’s brought into the light.
6. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, David Strathairn, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey
Based on James Ellroy’s crime masterpiece, L.A. Confidential is the modern film noir to end them all. It’s also peak Russell Crowe, and the film that made him a star in America (not Gladiator). He plays Bud White, a bruising L.A.P.D. detective known for his muscle, not his smarts. But, after his partner winds up dead in a restaurant massacre, White goes on the hunt for the killers. What he discovers instead is a massive conspiracy that involves his partner, his own department, heroin, murder, and a prostitution ring featuring women cut to look like movie stars. He teams up with the department hotshot (Pearce), and the two take the fight to the streets. There are twists throughout, but the biggest reveal comes at the end when we learn who’s behind it all.
7. Lincoln (2012)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook
Another Spielberg historical drama and another must-see. Daniel Day-Lewis won his record third Best Actor Oscar for his title role as US President Abraham Lincoln. The film focuses on Honest Abe during the month of January 1865 as he methodically wins the support to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Meanwhile, he also helps Ulysses S. Grant negotiate for the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, ending the Civil War. Day to day, Lincoln is a storyteller and he thrills and frustrates everyone around him with thoughtful yarns while he plays politics. Day-Lewis brings Lincoln to life and it’s a thrill to see.
8. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy
Whether you’re an athlete, a basket-case, a princess, a brain, or a criminal, you probably love The Breakfast Club. It’s hard to choose the best John Hughes film, but this one is always near the top. If you’re a martian, or something, who’s unfamiliar, the movie is set during a Saturday detention and five strangers bond while spending the day together. It’s hilarious at first before slipping into tense drama and back into comedy before the romantic ending. Nobody was better at capturing the nostalgia of high school life than Hughes.
9. Heat (1995)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Danny Trejo
De Niro and Pacino have been in the same movie before. But they played characters from different time periods in The Godfather Part II. In 1995, writer/director Michael Mann gave the two legends an opportunity to appear together onscreen for the first time. The movie was Heat, and fans of the film know the coffee shop scene as perhaps the movie’s signature moment. However, Heat is much more than one thing. It’s an all-time heist film, created with a realism that’s not for the faint of heart. Want to test out your new sound system? Watch the bank robbery sequence and listen to the bullets fly. Marines are taught the proper way to retreat from fire from this movie.
10. Unforgiven (1992)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Frances Fisher, Richard Harris, Jaimz Woolvett
Eastwood bid farewell to the western genre that made his career with a hell of a swan song. Unforgiven stunned audiences in 1992 before winning the Best Picture Oscar with a grisly revenge story about a retired villain (Eastwood) who returns to the life he left for one last reward payout. He’s just gotta kill a couple fellas who cut up a girl. He brings his old pard (Freeman) along for the ride, and they find their targets, but a no-nonsense sheriff (Hackman) wants the last word.
11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
A flawless film, Eternal Sunshine has a mind-bending finale that becomes the plot’s final puzzle piece. The movie begins with Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (Winslet) meeting on a train and the story weaves its way through their future relationship and eventual breakup. We discover each of them have had their memories erased by a strange company in order to move on with their lives. Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-winning script is woven magically by director Michel Gondry as much of the film takes place in Joel’s subconscious while he fights against the procedure from the inside.
12. In Bruges (2005)
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy
Perhaps my favorite film on this list, In Bruges is probably the wittiest. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), the movie takes place in Belgium, but it stars Irishmen Farrell and Gleeson as two hitmen. They’re hiding out in Bruges on the instructions of their belligerent mob boss (Fiennes). Intent on waiting patiently for the next movie, Ken (Gleeson) only wants to sightsee and relax, keep things business, but Ray (Farrell) has other plans.
13. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(Available: December 25)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War) know and understand what Marvel fans want to see. Avengers: Infinity War is not for the critics. It’s a non-stop action film with interludes of pathos, not the other way around. As expected, major characters face tragic loss, and it usually comes at the end of a spectacular brawl. It doesn’t have the wit of Deadpool, or the authenticity of Logan. It doesn’t recreate the galaxy the way Star Wars does. What Infinity War has instead, what Marvel does better than anyone else, is serious charisma. Infinity War brings all the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe together in one place as they prepare to face the ultimate villain, The Mad Titan Thanos.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi
Undoubtedly familiar with the two previous Thor movies, it seems director Taika Waititi made it his mission to create a sequel as far from those two as possible. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople director even inserts a cameo-heavy Asgardian play early in the story that seems to take aim at the previous Thor movies. His vision then devolves into the usual Marvel CGI bedlam near the end, but Thor: Ragnarok is easily one of the best Marvel movies thanks to Waititi’s deft comedic touch. And the Hulk. The Hulk rules.
15. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Tara Reid
The second Coen brothers movie on the list, and not the last, The Big Lebowski isn’t just one of the most popular cult films ever made for nothing. It’s worshiped in the cult of Coen and by its own cult. The movie is a veritable phenomenon, inspiring fan events at bowling alleys all over America every year. The story follows The Dude (Bridges), an unemployed slacker who’s duped into a kidnapping scheme by a powerful man who shares his name. But that plot is but one of many and the film hilariously takes you down the rabbit hole of Los Angeles culture in the ’90s.
16. A Serious Man (2009)
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Amy Landecker
The Coens’ most personal film. Set in a Minnesota suburb not unlike their own, A Serious Man considers some of the filmmakers’ favorite themes on a more intimate scale. The movie is a Job allegory as professor Larry Gopnik watches his life crumble before his eyes despite his faith. Fate and the universe’s disinterest in daily happenings on Earth are Coen staples and A Serious Man uses these ideas to maximum dark comedy effect.
17. Ghostbusters (1984)
Starring: Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson
We ain’t afraid of no ghosts anymore thanks to this specter-killing unit led by the world’s largest wiseass Peter Venkman (Murray). Another ’80s classic, Ghostbusters is a movie everyone needs to see at least once. Set in New York City, scientists Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis watch as paranormal events begin haunting the Big Apple. They respond by forming a response team that uses special laser guns to ensnare the ghosts in a trap. But when their cage is opened, all the ghosts run rampant at once and the Ghostbusters must face their biggest threat: ZUUL.
18. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård
Good Will Hunting just feels right. Damon plays the title character, a secret prodigy yearning for recognition. He must balance his mentor’s quest for him to succeed with his own search for happiness. Growing up in South Boston, all you’ve got is your word and your friends and Will doesn’t break either for anyone. But his relationship with a new, court-ordered therapist (Williams, in an Oscar-winning role) yields surprise results. Will actually trusts the guy and he begins to learn what’s really important in life.
19. Coraline (2009)
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane
Based on the Neil Gaiman novel, this stop-motion dark fantasy horror masterpiece is one of the great children’s movies of the new millennium. After moving away from home, young Coraline discovers a hidden world of button-eyed doppelgängers through a secret doorway in her house. It seems too good to be true as everyone showers her with attention and fills the holes she’s always needed filled. But the truth of the “Other-World” is something sinister and Coraline’s trapped… maybe for good.
20. Moana (2016)
Starring: Auliʻi Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger
The story of a rebellious Hawaiian princess and the powerful God who helps her is a great watch for Disney fans of all ages. Anyone who loves adventure, musicals, and drama alike will fall in line behind Moana and her friends, especially her pet rooster. Moana learns at a young age that her bond with the ocean is more powerful than other people’s. When she gets older, the ocean chooses her to reunite an ancient relic with a lost god and save her people.
21. The Hateful Eight (2017)
Starring: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Channing Tatum, Demian Bichir
Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to Hitchcock unfolds in a single room during a hellish snowstorm sometime after the Civil War. Two groups of strangers have to tough it out while the blizzard passes but tensions rise quickly and bullets fly before long. The Hateful Eight may be small in scope but it’s one of QT’s best-written films. The dialogue sizzles with the period and, once people start dropping dead, the movie shifts into another gear. It turns into a stone cold whodunit with about a half-dozen suspects.
22. Carol (2015)
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler
Carol boasts the aesthetic of romance. It’s director Todd Haynes’s way, but the Vaseline-lens sentimentality echoes the past as well. That’s where Haynes takes us to tell his very modern tale of two women free-falling into love in 1948. It’s an intense romance with a well-hidden twist. Will love be denied or prevail? I love how this movie feels, like an old photograph in your hand. It’s delicate and is made with an artist’s attention to detail. Plus, it stars two of the most emotionally open actresses working today, and watching them share scenes is intense. This is what romance really looks like.
23. Love Actually (2003)
Starring: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Don’t roll your eyes, Love Actually is actually a damn fine movie even if it wasn’t emotionally manipulative, holiday manipulative, and manipulative manipulative. The film wants you to cry and feel all the feelings about love… and it succeeds. You’re gonna swoon over at least one of the many interlinked love vignettes that unfold in this movie. Just let it wash over you.
24. The Third Man (1949)
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard
One of the greatest films ever made, directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene, and starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, The Third Man is essential viewing for anyone interested in seeing the best of movie history. Set in post-WWII Vienna, the suspicious murder of his childhood friend sends a writer into a labyrinthine investigation he may never emerge from.
25. The Lobster (2016)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly
From the twisted mind of co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster is a dystopian romantic black comedy set in a world where singles have 45 days to find a mate, or else they’re reincarnated into an animal (they get to choose which animal, at least). However, some single people live wild in the woods and David (Colin Farrell) ends up joining them when his attempts at finding a new mate don’t go as planned.
26. The Witch (2015)
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
The Witch defies genre. This is a beautifully-crafted film forged in the same fires as The Crucible, The New World, and the poetry of Edward Taylor and Robert Frost. (The woods have never been “lovelier, darker, or deeper.”) Set in 1630 near the beginning of the witch-burning era in New England, Eggers’s film starts on a plantation where a family of seven is cast out into the wilderness to fend for themselves. They build their own house and settle into the simple life before they soon discover they’re not alone. A mysterious force in the woods is out there, although it never shows itself. The baby disappears. The crops die. The little brother is taken and returned seemingly possessed. And that’s just the beginning.
27. It Follows (2014)
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi
The menace of It Follows is straight out of the George A. Romero school of lumbering, unquenchable dread, but director David Robert Mitchell updates the zombie aesthetic to feel modern and unique… And pointed right at the camera. The evil here isn’t a zombie, but it acts like one. What’s behind “It” is something much more intimate. It follows you unless you have sex and pass It on. Otherwise, It materializes in the form of a stalking stranger, anyone, and It hunts you endlessly. All you can do is run.
28. Mudbound (2017)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan,
Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund
An intense southern drama, Mudbound tells the stories of two families living in Mississippi after World War II. The Jacksons, essentially still living slave lives so their children won’t have to, cheer the return of their war hero son, Ronsel (Mitchell), but he finds he’s no more welcome in his hometown than he was before the war. Henry McAllan and his father own the Jacksons’ land and keep a tentative relationship with them. But Henry’s wife and brother, himself returned from the war, are done with the racist south and it makes for a combustible mix. This is a serious drama not lacking racial violence and heavy themes so don’t go into it lightly.
29. Seven (2005)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, R. Lee Ermey
Directed by David Fincher, Seven is not for the faint of heart. Set in rainy New York City, the film follows two detectives chasing a serial killer who selects his victims according to the seven deadly sins. As the bodies pile up, the detectives uncover more and more until the last sequence reveals the final sin. The end contains one of the most famous, shocking twists in movie history. Don’t miss it.
30. Frances Ha (2012)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer
Written by offscreen couple Noah Baumbach (who also directs) and Gerwig (who also stars), Frances Ha is an honest, funny, and dramatic portrait of female friendship in the big city. Shot in black and white, the film may be the best of Gerwig, who lends her typical awkward sense of humor to every situation while trying to find her place in the world after she has to move out of her best friend’s place.
31. Boyhood (2014)
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
The movie that lost to Birdman in the Best Picture Oscar race a few years back arrived on Netflix recently. Boyhood is a portrait of growing up in America as the story follows young Mason Evans (Coltrane) from ages six to eighteen. Filmed from 2002 to 2013, the actors age in real time throughout the course of the movie, an incredible feat realized by director Richard Linklater.
32. Nymphomaniac – Volumes I and II (2013)
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stacy Martin, Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf
Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Udo Kier
Covering five and a half hours, the complete director’s cut of Nymphomaniac is quite an experience. On one level, it’s a brilliant script about a woman’s sexual journey over decades as she opens up to a stranger who finds her beaten near his home. On the other hand, the film is explicit in its detailing of Joe’s (Gainsbourg) sex life, with scenes of actual sex and others of public sex acts, BDSM torture, and plenty more. Fans of Lars von Trier knew what to expect with this one, but plenty of audiences were shocked by what they were seeing. Either way, it’s a huge cinematic feat.
33. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna
Rogue One fans might be surprised to learn Diego Luna’s career really started with this film, where he plays a sex-crazed teenager vying for the affections of an older woman (Verdú). His best friend (Bernal) is also interested, however. Y Tu Mamá También is a classic of Mexican cinema, a classic road movie, and it was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film at the 2002 Academy Awards.
34. Hostiles (2017)
Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Lang, Timothée Chalamet, Rory Cochrane
Set after the Civil War where a legendary pony soldier (Bale) must escort a hated chief (Studi) back to his Montana home, Hostiles is an authentic, unsentimental story of death and forgiveness. It’s about old grudges coming back later in life and hard feelings that bely orders from above. It has great moments of peace, and horrible moments of violence. Bale inhabits them all in a complicated performance of many layers.
35. Her (2013)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde
From writer/director Spike Jonze, Her tells the love story between a lonely guy (Phoenix) and his new computer, a magnificent A.I. (voiced by Johansson). The unlikely romance takes place in the future where humans have become increasingly disconnected thanks to technology. But perhaps tech has also given us a new way to love? Funny, romantic, and way less absurd than you’d imagine, Her is a modern masterpiece.
36. The Shining (1980)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers,
Stephen King was never partial to The Shining (he’s reportedly come around in recent years), but Stanley Kubrick’s film scared the hell out of us as kids thanks to the imagery: axe-wielding madmen and creepy twins. But it’s the film’s opening that really sticks in my mind. Shot from a helicopter, the camera follows the Torrance family as they head to their new home in their VW Bug. Right away the movie seems alive, like the camera is possessed itself.
37. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee
Director Peter Jackson and his team brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary fantasy novels to life in the early 2000s and the first chapter is on Netflix now. The Fellowship of the Ring reveals the history of Middle-earth and the origin of the One Ring and the evil that lusts for its power. A lone hobbit, Frodo, is entrusted with the ring’s safe keeping until it can be destroyed. And a fellowship of men, hobbits, elves, dwarves and one badass wizard are entrusted with protecting Frodo. The journey begins in The Fellowship of the Ring.
38. Children of Men (2005)
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine
One of the great dystopian visions in movie history, Children of Men is a harrowing nightmare brought to life by director Alfonso Cuarón. The story is set in a future of infertility. The human race is dying out and chaos rules the world. The UK is a police state and a worker bee named Theo (Owen) finds himself beckoned by his past life as an activist. He works underground to transport a woman who’s carrying a valuable secret and finds himself driven to do the right thing, and protect her, at all costs.
39. Brick (2005)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good, Brian White
Perfectly structured, Brick may be the best film noir since Chinatown. In his relentless pursuit of his ex-girlfriend Em’s (DeRavin) killer, high school loner Brendan (Gordon-Levitt) uncovers a shady world of sex, drugs, and violence in his Los Angeles suburb. And the story is brilliant, but it’s more about how the story is told that makes Brick so special. Director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) created an old-fashioned film noir with a cast of high school kids who sound like they’re in The Maltese Falcon. And he borrows the soundtrack to Rumble Fish to give it even more style. Somehow it works. More than that. It sings. And Gordon-Levitt is a force. You will love him after seeing this.
40. Under the Skin (2013)
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Jeremy McWilliams
For director Jonathan Glazer and star Scarlett Johansson, this was the best collaboration between director and actor in 2013. They made a monster of a film. Under the Skin contains images you won’t believe and will never see again anywhere else. It’s a rare movie about an alien told by an alien. Johansson plays an otherworldly seductress who lures men into her clutches so she can process them to be sent back to the mothership. She’s calculating, cold, but inquisitive, and more human than she thinks. But its Glazer who’s the real star. His film is chilling to experience.
41. 22 July (2018)
Starring: Jonas Strand Gravli, Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden
Director Paul Greengrass has made a living recreating terrorist attacks in authentic handheld movies (United 93, Captain Phillips) and his latest is another powerful experience. On July 22, 2011, a far-right terrorist in Norway murdered over 100 people in two separate attacks. This story takes you there. However, Greengrass really cuts to the chase in 22 July. The attack makes up the film’s first act. Most of the movie occurs in the aftermath as killer Anders Behring Breivik (Lie) goes to trial and survivor Viljar Hanssen (Gravli) fights for his life. The entire film is raw, powerful moviemaking, and it concludes with a righteous confrontation in the best courtroom scene of 2018.
42. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Starring: Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano, Salvatore Cascio
For anyone who loves movies, Cinema Paradiso is a must watch. It’s been on Netflix for a long time, but, since it’s subtitled and has a lack of big names, we’re worried it gets lost in the mix for American audiences. It’s the kind of movie everyone’s heard of and no one has really seen. In today’s age of nostalgia and more nostalgia, this movie about the concept, about movies themselves, and the place we come from, is a universal favorite.
43. Little Sister (2016)
Starring: Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, Keith Poulson, Peter Hedges
A few years from now, when Addison Timlin is a star, people will say “Where did she come from?” And you can tell them, “Why, Little Sister, of course!” Get a jump on your film friends by checking out one of the most underrated films of 2016. Little Sister stars newcomer Timlin as a novitiate set to take her vows when her estranged mother requests that she come home for the first time in three years. Set in 2008, Colleen’s (Timlin) brother is home from the hospital burn ward after having his face blown up in Iraq and he’s not looking to socialize. But, Colleen, a former goth, gets her old stuff out of the closet and reminds him that life might be worth living.
44. Quiz Show (1994)
Starring: Rob Morrow, Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Hank Azaria, Mira Sorvino, David Paymer, Christopher McDonald, Paul Scofield
Quiz show mania is the backdrop against which a young lawyer investigates possible corruption within the TV industry in the 1958. Morrow is solid as smart young Bostonian Richard Goodwin, but Quiz Show soars thanks to a charming, complicated performance from Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren, a professor from a famous intellectual family who becomes the top earner on the biggest game show. But Goodwin thinks there’s more to the story of Van Doren, and there is, of course.
45. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Starring: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Kurt Egyiawan, Tiffani Person
Netflix’s first real feature film production was an ambitious one. Set in an unnamed African country, Beasts of No Nation tells the story of Agu, a young boy whose family is killed when an army invades his tiny village. Agu takes off into the jungle where he’s rounded up by the NDF rebels and their ruthless Commandant. The boy soon learns the brutality of the situation. He’s handed a machete and told to kill a man. But the violence doesn’t stop there.
46. Tangerine (2015)
Starring: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez
Produced by the Duplass brothers, starring inexperienced transgender actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, and shot with three iPhone 5s cameras due to budget constraints, Tangerine is one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015. How it was made is a fascinating story, but the product is even better. Shot with a frantic street style by Baker, the movie shows another side of Hollywood, where donut shops and laundromats are the hangouts and nobody comes to see your show. Rodriguez plays Sin-Dee, a prostitute who’s just been released from prison. Informed her boyfriend and pimp, Chester, has been cheating, the livid ball of energy sets out to find him. Alexandra (Taylor) helps her as best she can but has a show to prepare for later that night. How this simple tale unfolds, with style and authenticity, is the movie’s real accomplishment. It’s totally original.
47. Bad Day for the Cut (2017)
Starring: Nigel O’Neill, Susan Lynch, Jozef Pawlowski, Stuart Graham, David Pearse
Perhaps the best revenge movie of 2017, Bad Day for the Cut doesn’t feature any big stars, but it matters little. The savagery and the bloodshed are the reasons to see this one. Set in Northern Ireland, Donal lives at home with his mother in a meager existence. Drunk one night, he wakes up to find her murdered. When the killers return to finish Donal, things don’t go their way and this regular dude enters a world of extreme violence and danger when he uncovers more about the deed.
48. Mississippi Grind (2015)
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard
A movie about pushing your luck, Mississippi Grind stars Mendelsohn and Reynolds as new gambling partners who travel down the Mississippi on a last ditch trip to make their fortune. Reynolds rarely plays characters like this. He shows a vulnerability along with his usual life-of-the-party charms as a poker hustler with big dreams. And Mendelsohn is perfectly cast as an addict who lives for the thrill of it all — winning or losing.
49. The Green Mile (1999)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt
Based on the 1996 bestseller, The Green Mile was Stephen King’s attempt to recreate the magic of The Shawshank Redemption in another form. And critics embraced it fully. The film was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 2000 and Michael Clarke Duncan also scored a nod for Best Supporting Actor. The late actor plays a death row inmate with unreal powers who touches the lives of everyone around him at the prison. It’s an example of King’s talent for dramatic fantasy, and a more mainstream alternative to his usual bloody fare.
50. Apostle (2018)
Starring: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton
“The promise of the divine is but an illusion. God is pain. God is suffering. Beware false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Gnarly in that ironclad, medieval way, Apostle should definitely be viewed on an empty stomach. Directed by action phenom Gareth Evans (The Raid films), this is a horror thriller with style and substance both. And the creativity of the violence is something special. I literally said, “Oh shit!” out loud at least twice. The story follows a Welsh drifter who visits a cult looking for his sister in 1905. It’s the 20th century, but it might as well be Salem 1660 with all the blind piety. However, this cult isn’t worshipping the almighty, they’ve found a goddess who’s much closer to home. As the drifter discovers the truth about the group, the walls close in and the movie gets very claustrophobic. But it’s not until the heavy metal torture devices come out that the real horror begins.
51. The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Starring: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Sunny Pang
This is the movie you’d think Apostle‘s Gareth Evans would be behind — The Night Comes For Us is a pencak silat-filled barrage of enemy combatants coming at you. It’s actually directed by Timo Tjahjanto, Evans’s buddy and one half of the Mo Brothers, who’ve been pushing the horror envelope in Indonesia for the last decade. This is a guy who knows how to let the blood flow. And does it ever in The Night Comes For Us. The action flick is a bloodbath of stab wounds and broken limbs that pits the South East Asian Triad against one of its former and most legendary members. He saves a girl who shouldn’t have been saved and is hunted mercilessly. The bad guys come in waves and the action never relents. Don’t blink watching this one.
52. An Education (2009)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson
Mulligan debuted in Pride and Prejudice, but it was An Education that made her famous (and an Oscar nominee) in 2009. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a movie about youth and naïveté, as well as age and sophistication. Mulligan plays a high schooler in 1961 London who’s whisked into a glamorous new world when she’s seduced by an older guy (Sarsgaard). Everything is better than she ever imagined, but a secret threatens to ruin it all.
53. Cube (1997)
Starring: Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson
Imagine being trapped inside a giant Rubik’s Cube where each square is its own room and you can start to imagine the nightmare possibilities in Cube. Five strangers wake up in a room together. The room has hatches on each wall that lead to identical rooms of different colors. The catch is each room is booby-trapped with different killing devices. The strangers must work together, using their individual skill sets, to escape. The concept is thrilling, on a higher level than Saw, and horror fans will love seeing what comes next.
54. We Own the Night (2007)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes
From the great James Gray (The Yards, The Immigrant), We Own the Night is a gritty, star-studded affair that pits the NYPD against the Russian mob. Phoenix plays Bobby, the black sheep of his cop family. A club owner, his carefree life is upended when his father and brother raid his place, starting a war. Bobby fights back after his brother is shot, going undercover and getting way in over his head. The violence comes in waves if you’re looking for a seriously intense thriller to watch.
55. Super Dark Times (2017)
Starring: Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Max Talisman
The setup is familiar and fun — high schoolers killing time talking comics and girls — but the road this movie follows will disturb you. A tragic accident and subsequent coverup drives the suspense of Super Dark Times. It’s an artful horror film wrapped in the cloak of mainstream sensibilities. Directed by first-timer Kevin Phillips, it was hailed by critics and audiences alike in 2017.
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