Since 2007, Netflix has offered thousands of movies to stream on your PC, smartphone, tablet or big-screen TV for one monthly fee. It shows the films of many of the major Hollywood film studios, along with many more from small independent studios. In the last few years, Netflix has aggressively added original, exclusive films, made by major directors and actors, for its tens of millions of subscribers.
Netflix’s film library is shifting constantly, but there are lots of great films to watch right now. There’s true movie classics, modern hits and, even a few great original Netflix movies to choose from (one of which was just nominated this year for Best Picture at the Academy Awards). Here are the 10 best movies on Netflix, in no particular order.
Editor’s note – We will update this post as more great Netflix movies are added to the service’s catalog, and others depart.
Mexican writer-director Alfonso Cuaron has worked for the past decade or so on major Hollywood films like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity. Netflix got the rights to produce his latest movie, but instead of huge budgets, well-known stars, and cool visual effects, Roma is all about a housekeeper who lives with a family in Mexico City during the early 1970s. Based in part on Cuaron’s own childhood, the film is a beautifully told drama about family. Cuaron shot in black and white and picked Yalitza Aparicio, a woman with no prior acting experience, to play the lead role of the housekeeper. Roma has been nominated for this year’s Academy Award for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, and even more remarkably Aparicio was nominated for Best Actress. That should tell you something about the power of Roma.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
After gathering a cult following for their work on the BBC comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus and a movie based on it, this group of sketch comedians blew audiences away with their first original film. 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail remains one of funniest movies ever made. If you have never watched it, prepare to start quoting a ton of its lines. This may be the best movie ever made about the myth of King Arthur as well, and that’s saying something.
You can also catch up on the group’s earlier work on Netflix, which is streaming the entire run of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series. Also make sure to watch another great film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Black Panther was the biggest U.S. box office movie in the U.S. in 2018, and it just won three Academy Awards, and it’s certainly one of the best movies on Netflix. What makes this movie different than other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, or indeed any other superhero movie, is that it not only establishes Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa as a worthy character but it also brings us the advanced African country of Wakanda. Yes, we have seen other worlds in MCU films, but Wakanda is unique in that it has highly advanced technology, but still clings to very traditional leadership roles, and it wants to also remain isolated from the rest of the world. It’s this kind of setup that’s at the heart of the movie, as Michael B. Jordan’s character of Killmonger wants to not only claim the throne of Wakanda but also wants to use its tech to strike back at the rest of the world for its history of oppressing black people.
Black Panther shows us a villain in Killmonger who might have some good reasons for his actions, while the leadership of Wakanda might have some ethical problems. It’s this reversal that really makes the movie different than the normal superhero epic. Oh, and it has some awesome action sequences and fights, too.
1999 was supposed to be the year of Star Wars, with the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. As it turned out, 1999 was actually the year of The Matrix. Written and directed by the Wachowskis, this tale came at exactly the right time. The internet was just starting to explode in the mainstream, and the movie took that interest and expanded it into a future where all of humanity was unknowingly hooked up to machines, believing they were in a dream world set in the present day. Only a relative few freedom fighters know the truth, and they believe that Keanu Reeve’s character of Thomas Anderson, also known as Neo, is their savior; the man that can defeat the machines at their own game.
With anime-inspired action and visual effects that had never been done before (“Bullet time” became a legend), The Matrix is still one of the best sci-fi movies of all time and one of the best movies on Netflix. Netflix also has its two bigger, but not better, sequels to stream: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Director Steven Spielberg wanted to make a movie about the terrible events of the Holocaust but also wanted to make a film that was ultimately hopeful rather than completely depressing. The result was 1993’s Schindler’s List, which chronicles the real-life efforts of German businessman Oskar Schindler to save as many Jews from the Nazi’s extermination camps as he could in World War II. It’s not easy to watch, but it’s one of the best movies on Netflix. It’s powerful and emotional and proves the human spirit can overcome even the worst atrocities.
If you want a movie to watch with your kids without wishing you were somewhere else, Disney-Pixar’s Coco is the one to stream. It may be the best animated movie on Netflix at the moment, in addition to being one of the best movies on Netflix, period. The 2017 release centers on a boy in Mexico who manages to travel to the afterlife during Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Bring a bunch of tissues with you when you watch Coco, because you will be crying at some point — trust us.
Another great Disney-Pixar film has also made its way to Netflix, the long-awaited superhero family sequel, The Incredibles 2.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The 1981 film may have been officially renamed as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but we all know the true title of this film. Harrison Ford seems born to play Indiana Jones, an archeologist who risks life and limb to find the greatest historical relics in the world. In the series’ debut directed (as all of them are) by Steven Spielberg, Jones is recruited to find The Ark of the Covenant in 1936 before Nazis can get it. This was described as a homage to the Saturday afternoon serials of the 1930s but in truth, this film blows all of them away in action, humor, and entertainment. It’s certainly one of the best movies on Netflix you can stream right now.
Netflix also has the three other films in this series for streaming currently; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and (yuck) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Here’s another good Netflix original movie from 2018 to check out. This one comes from the acclaimed writer-director brother team of Joel and Ethan Coen, who have given us memorable movies in the past like Raising Arizona, No Country for Old Men, and Fargo. Originally, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was developed as a short-form TV series for Netflix, but the Coen Brothers decided instead to create an anthology film, with several short tales all taking place in the Wild West. It retains the wit, humor, and unexpected shocks of any film made by the Coen Brothers. It’s actually perfect for a Netflix audience, as people can take a break in between segments if they want.
You could also consider this film an anthology — sort of. It has separate interlocking stories which all come together to give us tales of crime in Los Angeles. This 1994 movie truly put writer-director Quentin Tarantino on the map as a filmmaking talent. He created some truly iconic scenes and characters here, from the dance scene of John Travolta and Uma Thurman, to the discussion of the “Royale with cheese,” to Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules bringing the wrath down on his victims, memorably “quoting” Ezekiel 25:17. “Strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger” indeed.
Director Francis Ford Coppola used the power and acclaim garnered by the success of his first two Godfather films to make this 1979 Vietnam War epic. This was one of the most troubled movie productions of all time, but the final result speaks for itself. Don’t look for a realistic military flick here; the journey by Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard to take out Marlon Brando’s insane Colonel Kurtz is more of a dream than a war mission. It includes some impressive cinematography and amazing sequences that should stay in your mind for a long time to come.
Best movies on Netflix – Honorable mentions
There’s a ton of movies to stream on Netflix, and many of them almost made this list. Here’s a quick look at some of the best Netflix movies that didn’t quite make the top 10.
- Boyhood – Filmed over a span of 12 years, this film may be the best fictionalized look at children growing up.
- No Country for Old Men – The Coen Brothers directed this masterpiece of a modern Western. We still have nightmares about Javier Bardem coming to us to flip a coin.
- Hot Fuzz – This British comedy works as a pure action film, while at the same time paying tons of tribute to the movies that inspired it.
- The Silence of the Lambs – Without a doubt, this was one of the scariest mainstream movies of all time, and brought us Anthony Hopkins’ performance as maybe the best movie villain of all time, Hannibal Lecter.
- Bird Box – This Netflix original film, about the world coming under attack by pure fear creatures, not only is an excellent movie, it actually became a weird Internet meme challenge (don’t do it).
- Black Hawk Down – This military film from director Ridley Scott is one of the best war films ever made, depicting U.S. soldiers during the real-life events of Somalia as it falls apart in 1993.
- Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened – Want to know why the 2017 Fyre Festival is now blowing up in pop culture? Look no further than this original Netflix documentary chronicling one of the biggest scams ever.
Those are our picks for the best movies on Netflix you can currently stream on the service. Which ones would you put on your list? Let us know in the comments!