Best Movies on Netflix: TechRadar’s round-up of the best films on Netflix’s massive catalog.
Want to find something to watch on Netflix without spending an hour flicking through movies? With thousands of options at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in cinematic limbo. Finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of hassle.
We’re here to help.
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.
Spend less time browsing through movies, and more time watching them. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are a must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.
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Who’s it for? Cinema buffs and anyone looking to get a jump on Awards Season
An astonishing ode to motherhood in all forms, Roma is the most personal film to date from visionary director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity). On paper, Roma is not the easiest sell – a subtitled black and white film about a live-in housekeeper spoken almost entirely in Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, Cuarón’s latest is nonetheless riveting from a cinematic standpoint. More a series of vignettes than a traditional three-act story, Roma examines the life of a Mexico City family in the early 1970s during a time of great social upheaval. Described by Cuarón as 90% autobiographical, the film provides some insight into the famous director’s early life, although the story is witnessed primarily through the eyes of his caretaker, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who would become a loved member of the family. One of the most gorgeously photographed films of the year, Roma deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. Shot entirely in 65mm, Roma would make for an ideal theatrical experience. However, if that isn’t an option, you won’t be disappointed by the Roma’s breathtaking 4K Ultra HD presentation on Netflix – just make sure you keep tissues on hand, because it’s very likely you’ll shed a few tears during the film.
2. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Who’s it for? Fans of sci-fi based around people named Skywalker.
Love it or hate it, the 8th film in the Star Wars franchise is immortalized in the canon now. It stumbles in parts, slows to a crawl in others, and fails to do what you’d expect. Some might call these the markings of a failed film. But we’d say it’s these traits – this break from tradition – that gave us a Star Wars film that we couldn’t have ever imagined. Beyond simply defying expectations for the sake of it, The Last Jedi grapples with complex themes of morality in a new republic – with minority characters leading the charge as tried-and-true characters are laid to rest. This is jolting for a franchise that’s been dominated by the same few characters for the last two decades but it’s this change that pushes The Last Jedi in a new direction – one in which it can survive without its main heroes. It might not have the nostalgia of the originals or the fast, fun nature of Solo: A Star Wars Story, but sometimes we need to shed the skin tradition to create something new. (Hint: In case that’s lost on you, that’s the exact point that Yoda makes abundantly clear to Luke at the temple.)
Who’s it for? Activists and folks ready to be exposed to animal cruelty
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%
4. It Follows
Who’s it for? Fans of classic horror
Considered a modern horror classic by many, It Follows sees a young girl (Maika Monroe) terrorized by a sexually-transmitted demon. This terrifying apparition looks different every time and will chase you relentlessly until you either pass it on by sleeping with someone else, or until it catches up to you and finishes you off for good. To make matters worse, if the person you pass it on to dies, it will turn its attention back to you again. Did we mention that it can only be seen by the people that have been ‘infected’, so your friends won’t be able to help as much as they’d like to? Yeah, it kinda sucks. Stylish, atmospheric and with a terrific John Carpenter-inspired synth score, It Follows in an effective horror movie which may suffer a little from a few odd decisions by its characters, but is still well worth watching.
5. The Theory of Everything
Who’s it for? Empathetic scientists and romance fans
The Theory of Everything is the romance-heavy version of Stephen Hawking’s life. The stars Eddie Redmayne in the role of Hawking who, despite the overwhelming challenge of playing a character with progressive ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), puts on an Oscar-worthy performance as the man who solved some of the greatest mysteries around black holes and their lives. While the film glosses over most of the science behind Hawking’s greatest revelations, it does an exceptional job depicting the challenge of providing care for someone whose health is progressively declining. It’s based on source material from Hawking’s first wife, author Jane Hawking and her book Traveling to Infinity.
6. Cartel Land
Who’s it for? ‘Merica
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film, Cartel Land explores the state of the ongoing drug problem along the U.S.-Mexican border. On one side is the heroic Dr. José Mireles, the leader of the vigilante group, the Autodefensas. On the other is Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon. The two are stuck in a never-ending battle against the cartels, putting both themselves and their families on the line to fight for what they think is right.
IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
7. Schindler’s List
Who’s it for? Anyone in need of a lesson in human compassion
This is one of the most affecting movies that you will ever see. Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a factory owner who begins to help his Jewish workers during World War II after he sees them persecuted by the Nazi Germans, the movie is a study in brevity. Steven Spielberg manages to find the human stories in the atrocity of WWII without shying away from the true horror of what happened during the conflict. Winner of several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Schindler’s List is a film you won’t soon forget.
8. Beasts of No Nation
Who’s it for? Joseph Conrad enthusiasts
Beasts of No Nation stars Idris Elba as a war lord, and follows the story of Agu, portrayed by child actor Abraham, who is forced to become a child soldier during the civil war of an unnamed African country. What follows is a nightmare: boys stolen from their families are forced to kill and through blood take their vengeance on the world. It’s a war movie with a profound message, and is probably the closest equivalent of Apocalypse Now that we’re like to see in the 21st century.
IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
9. City of God
Who’s it for? Dark tourists and crime lovers
If you’ve blasted your way through both seasons of Narcos and want another South American crime epic to get stuck into, consider City of God as your next destination. Based on true events that took place over three decades in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, the film accurately recreates the lively and energetic vibe of Brazil, but also counters it some truly harrowing scenes of devastating violence. In the ‘City of God’, children brandish firearms and kill each other indiscriminately over petty drug deals. While that might sound like too much to bear, the terrific filmmaking on display from Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund will keep you on the edge of your seat, as will the film’s authentic performers and compelling story. One of the greatest films of all time, City of God is like Goodfellas scored to a samba beat.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Who’s it for? Light show-loving comic book fans
A visual treat, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finds the intergalactic heroes thrust into another adventure, one that could reveal the identity of Peter Quill’s father. Even more spectacular than the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continually aims to surprise the audience, with simultaneously keeping its action and comedy levels high.
11. The Hateful Eight
Who’s it for? Desperadoes looking for a modern masterpiece
There are few directors who have filmographies as celebrated as Quentin Tarantino, and The Hateful Eight only goes to further add to his illustrious career. Based several years after the Civil War in a cabin in Wyoming in the dead of winter, this high-intensity thriller puts a wide variety of suspicious individuals together in the same room, and it’s uncertain whether or not anyone will make it out alive. This film heavily features Tarantino’s masterful use of dialogue and cinematography to really make you feel like you’re part of the action as you suspiciously watch everyone in the room – trying to figure out who is trustworthy.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
12. Bird Box
Who’s it for? Hardworking moms who aren’t afraid of suspense
Horror movies have fallen on hard times. There, I said it. Spending the past decade relying on jump shocks and excessive gore to win over new audiences, it’s rare to find a film as well-made, thought-out and genuinely suspenseful as Bird Box. While the film draws some obvious comparison to 2018’s The Quiet Place, Bird Box pits survivors against post-apocalyptic horrors who cause people to commit suicide when they’re seen. Cue copious blindfolds to keep the monsters out of sight, but never are they out of mind for a mother tasked with ferrying two kids to safety.
IMDB Rating: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
13. Avengers Infinity War
Who’s it for? Marvel super fans and… nihilists, I guess?
Infinity War is a feat of film-making. The Russo Brothers (the film’s directors) were tasked with creating a unified Marvel crossover event with every character from the last 10 years. It’s a big, bold vision for a universe that so innocently began with Iron Man one short decade ago, but it’s woven seamlessly together via a cast of heroes and one singularly misguided villain with the power to wipe out half of all life in the universe. It’s a bit heavy on action sequences but in between all the fighting lies a wonderfully wrought world that’s straight from the panels of Marvel’s comics.
Who’s it for? Anyone looking for love in all the wrong places
While it’s a film that’s almost certainly mocking tech lovers like us, Her is a beautiful look at a lonely man who’s rescued by a futuristic fictional smart assistant. At times a bit heavy-handed with its messaging, Her provides a solid foundation for why human connection is more intimate than machines, even if the latter can remove the awkward initial dating phase using a personalized algorithm.
15. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Who’s it for? You and The Beauty in your life
An utterly enchanting and completely magnificent live-action adaptation of one of Disney’s most celebrated animated classics, Beauty and the Beast absolutely nails the source material — maybe even betters it in some regards. Much of the praise can be bestowed upon Emma Watson, who plays Belle with grace and warmth. The same can be said about Dan Stevens, who spends the film injecting life into the computer-generated Beast. Luke Evans comes close to stealing the show, though as the vicious and vain Gaston. We’re also pleased to report that all of the original film’s songs are present and accounted for, so gather the whole family and settle in for a wonderful night singing, laughing and crying.
16. Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting is playing a game of hide and seek on US Netflix. It’s there one minute and gone the next – but, for now, it appears to have landed semi-permanently on the streaming service. In what is arguably the late Robin Williams’ best performance, Good Will Hunting shows us a brilliant mind robbed of its potential by falling in with a bad crowd, only to be saved by an unconventional psychologist who’s willing to get a bit too personal with his clients. Matt Damon’s character’s transition from broken toy to intellectual aspirant is beautiful behold and is a close second to Williams’ meteoric performance.
17. The Fundamentals of Caring
The Fundamentals of Caring is proof that you can take actor Paul Rudd, put him in literally any movie about any subject and he automatically makes it 10 to 20 times better. With any other actor in the leading role, The Fundamentals of Caring – based on the book by Jonathan Evison – would’ve likely had no lasting appeal. And yet, with Rudd behind the wheel of the ship the film becomes a comical road trip movie with a compelling twist that’s one part Eurotrip and two parts 50/50. The stakes here are that Rudd is taking care of an emotionally sheltered, physically handicapped teen whose bark is fiercer than his bite. The friendship the two form ultimately help the other grow out of their shells. It may come off as trite, cliché and over-wrought at times, but if you stick through the saccharine, there’s a well-crafted story here that might melt your heart.
IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
18. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the uplifting documentary of one man who never gave up on his … uh, dreams. Jiro became the first three-star Michelin sushi chef in Japan and has been called a national treasure, all the while honing his mantra of being his best self. Jiro’s commitment to his craft that carries the film – but it’s his two sons, both famous sushi chefs like their father that make the film one of the best documentaries ever made. If you’re hungry for a bit of inspiration in an evermore depressing world, pull up a seat.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
With Moana officially off Netflix for the time-being, Coco is the new de facto must-watch animated film on the streaming service. A gloriously colorful romp through a Dia de Los Muertos in the land of the dead, Coco teaches us about the importance of family and the power of chasing your dreams simultaneously. Though it follows all the familiar Disney beats that we’ve come to expect over the years, Coco is well written, wonderfully animated and terrifically acted. You may also find its many catchy songs stuck in your head for days after watching it.
20. Dallas Buyers Club
This is a movie that was close to not being made. Just as shooting began, funding was pulled and it means that star Matthew McConaughey may have had to drop out, as he needed to put all the weight on he had lost for playing Ron Woodroof, an electrician diagnosed with Aids. Money was found, though, and we’re glad it was as this is a sometimes harrowing but strangely uplifting account of someone who goes to the extra mile to get their hands on an experimental Aids drug that can lessen the effects of the disease. McConaughey is fantastic as the makeshift drug runner while his partner in crime is Jared Leto as Rayon, a trans woman who helps him on his journey. Despite the budget cut, there was Oscar nominations aplenty for the film with it winning Best Makeup. Considering the makeup was done on $250 budget, this is an impress feat.