It’s always tricky to narrow down the best movies on Netflix at any given time, especially since the streamer chops and changes its content library on the fly.
To help you sift the treasure from the trash, our pick of the 30 best Netflix movies does the heavy lifting for you. We regularly update the below entries with the latest original movies and returning classics alike, and also replace the movies taken off Netflix (RIP, Good Time) to keep our recommendations as fresh as possible.
The latest additions to our collection include Phantom Thread, Taxi Driver and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. Incidentally, many of the films listed below are Netflix originals, which is why, for our money, Netflix remains the best streaming service in 2022 – despite increased competition from the likes of Disney Plus and HBO Max in recent years.
Below, then, you’ll find our pick of the best movies on Netflix in the US right now.
Just as director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest effort, Licorice Pizza, hits this year’s awards circuit, Netflix has added his previous film, Phantom Thread, to its content library in the US. One of 2017’s best movies, this one tells the story of a dressmaker (Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1950s London who falls for a young waitress (Vicky Krieps).
That might sound like a potentially boring narrative, but Phantom Thread is actually masterfully-shot, poignant exploration of what it means to be an artist, combining Oscar-winning costume design with a stunning soundtrack (from Radiohead and frequent Anderson collaborator Johnny Greenwood) to rank among its director’s finest work. Catch it before it’s gone.
One of the most influential movies of the 20th century, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver follows marine-turned-cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) as he grows disgusted by the crime and urban decay of ’70s New York City. In an effort to clean up the streets, he embarks on a mission to save underage prostitute (Jodie Foster) from her pimp (Harvey Keitel).
Considered by many to be Scorsese’s greatest achievement, shades of Taxi Driver are evident in some of the biggest movies of recent years. The likes of Fight Club, Joker and The Machinist all owe a debt of gratitude to Taxi Driver’s grimy portrayal of inner-city America, and first-time viewers will be bowled over by its music, visual style and that mirror scene.
The Power of the Dog
It’s safe to say that Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog was the critical hit – and potentially best movie – of 2021. Widely praised for its slow-burning psychological drama, it follows the story of a menacing rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) who doesn’t take kindly to the arrival of his brother’s new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
Cumberbatch arguably gives a career-best performance as the volatile Phil Burbank here, which undoubtedly made interesting prep for next year’s Doctor Strange 2. It’s a slow-burner, for sure, but The Power of the Dog is a masterful piece of filmmaking – expect it to pick up several Oscars in 2022.
Well, it turns out that Spider-Man (okay, Andrew Garfield) can sing.
In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, promising young theater composer Jonathan Larson (Garfield) navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City on the cusp of his 30th birthday.
Incidentally, tick, tick…BOOM! is actually based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Larson himself, whom Garfield plays in this one, so fans of the playwright (and musicals in general) should find lots to love here.
Stand by Me
If you’re a fan of Super 8, It or Stranger Things, Stand by Me is a must-watch. Released in 1986, Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, is a classic coming-of-age movie that follows four friends who decide to take a trip down the railroad tracks in search of a dead body they heard rumors about.
The chemistry between its four child stars – Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell – is palpable, and the movie tells a simple but moving story of male identity and the vulnerability of youth. Oh, and Kiefer Sutherland stars as an extremely unlikable bully (described by the actor as an “asshole to the marrow of his bones”), so we don’t suggest watching this one with the kids.
Based on the novel by Nella Larsen, Passing follows two black women (Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga) who can ‘pass’ as white, but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.
This one marks actress Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, and has been near-universally praised for the sensitive handling of its complex subject matter and important examination of racial identity in the early 20th century.
Expect Passing to prove the subject of much Oscar buzz in the coming months, particularly for its lead actors.
The Harder They Fall
Arriving nine days before the most expensive film Netflix has ever made – the Dwayne Johnson-starring Red Notice – The Harder They Fall marks the feature film directorial debut from Jeymes Samuel. Don’t let that fact put you off, though. The Harder They Fall is one of the best films the streaming giant produced in 2021, which says a lot about Samuel’s eye for detail, the movie’s all-star cast and its pulsating plot.
After Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is sprung from prison by his former gang, Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) rounds up his own posse of lawmakers to exact revenge on the man who murdered his parents. The likes of Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) and Lakeith Stanfield (Knives Out) also star in this Western flick that pays tribute to the Black cowboys who are often overlooked in similar productions.
Let’s stick with the gangster theme, shall we?
A remake of the 1932 film of the same name – and one of the best crime flicks of the 20th century – Scarface tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino), who arrives penniless in 1980s Miami but rises the ranks to become a powerful drug lord.
Perhaps best known for its iconic dialogue lines (“the eyes, Chico, they never lie” and “say hello to my little friend,” in particular), Brian De Palma’s Scarface is in fact a sweeping, emotional tale of a human being corrupted by greed and confused by a misplaced sense of family duty.
Another Netflix original movie, The King stars Timothée Chalamet as Henry V, a young man forced to navigate the worlds of politics, war and treachery after unexpectedly becoming king of England in the 15th century. This one contains all the fanfare you’d expect from a modern medieval movie, and boasts an excellent cast including Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris. For a reported budget of just $20 million (although you wouldn’t know it), director David Michôd managed to produce one of the most engaging and visually stunning historical dramas around.
A same-name adaptation of the award-winning Danish drama, The Guilty stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a 911 call center operator who faces a race against time to save a kidnapped woman on the other side of the line.
Netflix reportedly paid $30 million to acquire this one, which comes from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective). The Danish original is already a great thriller, combining taut dialogue sequences with unexpected twists, so throwing a talent like Gyllenhaal into the mix makes this version of The Guilty an easy recommendation.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Now available again on Netflix after briefly leaving the service, the ultimate sci-fi movie is always worth a rewatch – especially in the form of Ridley Scott’s 2007 Final Cut. Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is what’s known as a blade runner, essentially a cop paid to track down rogue replicants, a type of android. But when he confronts the dangerous killer known as Roy Batty, how will Deckard deal with his own role as a human being? This rainy movie is as much a noir film as it is an ’80s vision of the future, and it’s a stunning work of world-building even decades later.
Probably the most blockbuster action movie-style film that Quentin Tarantino has made, Django Unchained is a high-energy modern western that deserves the hype around it. Django (Jamie Foxx) is a former slave who works with Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to hunt scoundrels across the American South – eventually teaming up to try and free Django’s wife from the appalling Calvin Candie (meme king Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s very much a rewrite of history in the vein of Inglourious Basterds – violent, entertaining and ambitiously realized.
Based on the 2003 Michael Lewis novel of the same name, Moneyball charts the extraordinary 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in 2002, led by general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). Aaron Sorkin provided the script for this one, so it’s definitely more a dance of dialogue than engaging sports drama, but the very real story of the Oakland A’s is one that needs little Hollywood intervention.
To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Netflix commissioned Worth, the untold true story of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which sought to reimburse those families affected by the tragedy – though not on equal terms.
Michael Keaton stars as Kenneth Feinberg, head of the operation, alongside Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan, with the team behind Spotlight and 12 Years a Slave on hand as producers. That Oscar-winning creative pedigree is plain to see, too, as Worth develops into a genuinely captivating drama that revolves around the impossible ethical question: how much is one life worth?
Body of Lies
Body of Lies doesn’t come close to director Ridley Scott’s best, but the combined star power of Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe make this espionage thriller absolutely worth a watch. In it, a CIA agent uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader, but things take an ugly turn when the plan to catch him goes awry. Fans of Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker and Green Zone will find lots to like here.
Army of the Dead
Army of the Dead is Zack Snyder’s first feature film since his increasingly acrimonious split with Warner Bros, and it’s everything that his DC superhero movies weren’t: bright, colorful, action-packed, funny and topical, even if its 45-minute introduction is a little self-indulgent.
Dave Bautista leads a strong cast as Scott Ward, a former zombie-stomping war hero who’s approached with an intriguing proposal by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada). The assignment? Enter a zombie infested Las Vegas, break into Tanaka’s casino vault, escape with his $200 million assets and Ward and his group will receive $50 million to split between them as a reward.
Yes, the movie is as chaotic as that plot makes it sound, and with a sequel on the way in the near future, Army of the Dead is a must-watch for fans of gratuitous blood and gore.
The Mitchells vs the Machines
Originally intended for a theatrical release, Netflix bought this new animated movie from Sony and producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller – best known as the minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, and also part of the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s exactly as charming and funny as those movies, too.
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is an aspiring filmmaker who’s about to head to college – until her dad, conscious that they’ve been drifting apart, cancels her plane ticket and insists on a family roadtrip. Halfway through this fraught journey, an AI takes revenge on its billionaire creator, and the world is suddenly under duress from smart robots.
A lot of Spider-Verse’s visual touches cross over into this film, too, with 2D annotations and drawings on the already-pretty 3D visuals. Most of all, it’s nice to see Netflix backing a family movie that’s not just full of talking dogs and other hackneyed nonsense so often seen in CG kids’ fare.
Rush is a biographical sports movie about the heated rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda – played here brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl respectively, in one of Ron Howard’s best movies in recent memory. The film portrays their rivalry as lucky playboy vs hotheaded strategist, and while it might exaggerate real-life events somewhat, it’s a riveting movie. Along with documentary Senna and dad-friendly flick Ford Vs Ferrari, Rush is one of the best movies about racing around – don’t miss it on Netflix.
One to enjoy with all the family, Dreamworks’ 2008 hit Kung-Fu Panda continued to prove that Pixar doesn’t have a monopoly on funny, heartfelt animation. Jack Black leads a star-studded voice cast in this China-set adventure, which follows a seemingly hopeless Panda on his journey to becoming the fabled Dragon Warrior. You might also be surprised to learn that Hollywood super-composer Hans Zimmer provided the score for Kung-Fu Panda – which is, of course, part of the reason the movie makes this list (seriously, though, ‘Oogway Ascends’ is a masterpiece).
This sweaty-palmed thriller is about Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a jeweller and gambler who plans a gem sale that’ll solve all his problems. Instead, Howard makes more and more ill-advised bets, and the walls begin to close in. Uncut Gems is a stressful but enthralling film with a really impressive performance from Sandler, not to mention a fantastic ensemble cast. It’s a fascinating character study, as you watch Ratner begin to suffocate under the weight of his terrible decisions and inability to put anyone but himself first.
The true horror of His House lies in the real world. This British horror movie tells the story of a Sudanese couple that endure the consequences of a tragic crossing to England, only to be rehomed in a nondescript estate surrounded by racism, and with something else lurking in the house. It’s a supremely confident debut from writer-director Remi Weekes, and Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu both stand out as the two leads in emotionally-challenging roles.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Based on the play by August Wilson – and despite the gorgeous period set dressing and costume design, it definitely feels very stage-y – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is one of the best Netflix original movies of recent years. Viola Davis stars as legendary ‘Mother of Blues’ Ma Rainey, and the film focuses on one fraught recording session with Ma and her band, and the tension between the musician and her white producers and management.
Meanwhile, the late Chadwick Boseman stars as Levee, an innovative trumpet player who struggles to find his place in the music scene, amid bandmates who don’t always take him seriously. It’s a sad but insightful movie that explores how culture is worth protecting and valuing, in a world where it’s easily taken and monetized, and the film truly comes to life in its amazing musical sequences. Don’t miss it.
Always Be My Maybe
You may know Always Be My Maybe’s leading lady Ali Wong from her raucous Netflix stand-up specials, but it’s as a successful celebrity chef that she really hits her stride. After a failed engagement, Wong’s character Sasha Tran heads to her hometown of San Francisco to setup a new restaurant, only to run into her old bff played by Randall Park. Through the turbulence of the relationship, a sudden fling with actor Keanu Reeves and despite the differences in careers, the two try to make it work, and the journey from old friends to lovers is a joy to watch.
Beasts of No Nation
We won’t beat about the bush – Beasts of No Nation is a tough watch. No Time to Die’s Cary Fukunaga directs this harrowing feature, which follows the journey of a young orphan (Abraham Attah) forced into becoming a child soldier by a fierce warlord (Idris Elba) during an unnamed African civil war.
An adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s novel of the same name, Beasts of No Nation is a masterfully-shot story documenting the human cost of conflict, and places the uncomfortable realities of war front and centre. This isn’t one to watch with the kids, but sitting through its two-hour narrative is an enlightening, dare-we-say necessary movie experience.
This threateningly long Scorsese pic attracted attention for the extensive effects work used to de-age its old stars, and it’s a creative decision that’s sometimes distracting. But there’s no denying the appeal of seeing De Niro, Pesci and Pacino in the same movie together for likely the last time, and this life-spanning, mostly rewarding crime epic is a suitable tribute to their collective talents. It’s a languid film – and not a patch on Goodfellas – but absolutely among the best Netflix movies the streaming service has financed to date. The Irishman is about the life of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), as he recounts his long association with the Bufalino crime family, and infamous union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Forget Thor Ragnarok: Taika Waititi’s best film is still Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a quirky (and genuinely hilarious) comedy-drama starring Sam Neill and newcomer Julian Dennison. Set in New Zealand, it’s about a misbehaving teenaged orphan who goes to live with foster parents out in the countryside. When his foster mother passes, though, it’s just the boy and his grumpy foster father left – and they soon get caught up in a headline-making manhunt. If all of that sounds heavy, it really isn’t – Hunt for the Wilderpeople is touching, but it also features the funniest performance from Neill that you’ll ever see.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee’s entry in the Vietnam War canon is unlike anything else before it. Focusing on the black American experience of the war, it’s about a group of soldiers who return to the country decades later in their old age to retrieve the remains of their squad captain (played in flashback by Chadwick Boseman). At the same time, they seek out buried gold they left behind years before – though they’re not alone in this pursuit. The movie flips from being a mournful movie about trauma to a bonkers action film with almost no notice, too, but the mix here works.
If you’ve enjoyed Bong Joon Ho’s Best Picture winner Parasite, you might want to check out his previous movie, Okja, which is one of the best Netflix originals so far. It’s the bizarre tale of a young girl and her best pal, an enormous creature called Okja. Their friendship is under threat when a nasty CEO (Tilda Swinton) has evil plans for Okja. It’s a refreshing movie with a nice angle of animal activism – a very different proposition to Parasite, for sure, but one that also demonstrates the director’s ability to blend genres.
Ensure you’re in the right mindset to watch Marriage Story – i.e. skip this if you’re in the middle of a break-up – because this sympathetic movie about a failing marriage and the resulting fallout can be tough viewing. It’s the latest picture from director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha), and features actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson at the top of their game in what are surely emotionally draining roles. Watch it before it gets memed and gif-ed to death on social media, and you only see Marriage Story as that movie where Kylo Ren cries a lot.
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, it’s 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. But Cuarón’s 2018 critical hit 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 in years, 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.
We loved Roma so much, in fact, that we published a whole op-ed about it.