Movies to watch now on Netflix

The Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (March 2021)

BY ANDY HERRERANATE HOUSTONMar 19, 2021

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Image via YouTube/ Warner Bros.

Last Updated: March 19, 2021

Some days it feels like you’ve watched everything on Netflix. Not just their numerous original TV shows, but every single movie that’s on there. Well, we’re here to tell you that’s not true. Thanks to a constantly updating library of originals and acquired titles, there’s always something new to watch on Netflix. Their movie selection is constantly dynamic and features numerous titles that are sure to entice you. 

The diversity in genre is unparalleled, ranging from true crime documentaries like Abducted in Plain Sight and American Murder: The Family Next Door, to award winning dramas like Marriage Story and Roma, to laugh out loud comedies like Eurovision and The Lovebirds. Of course, due to streaming rights, movies are always being removed on Netflix, but recent additions like Malcolm & Marie and To All The Boys: Always and Forever keep the level of quality films on Netflix at a premium.

So when you’re done binge-watching Bridgerton and Firefly Lane, why not put on a movie to liven things up? Here are the best movies on Netflix right now. 

Recently AddedBiggie: I Got a Story to Tell (Netflix Documentary), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Training Day (2001)

For a more in-depth look into our favorite titles available to stream by genre, check out The Best TV Shows on NetflixThe Best Movies on HuluThe Best HBO SeriesThe Best Shows on Amazon Prime, and The Best Movies to See Before You Die.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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Image via YouTube/ Warner Bros.

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdú, Sergi López, Doug Jones
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% (Critics) 91% (Audience)

One of The Shape of Water director Guillermo Del Toro’s earlier films, Pan’s Labyrinth is a critically acclaimed, visually stunning fairy tale. Five years after the Spanish Civil War, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), the stepdaughter of a tyrannical military captain, discovers a mysterious labyrinth guarded by a faun who promises to bring her to her real father if she completes three dangerous tasks. Del Toro considers Pan’s Labyrinth a spiritual successor to his earlier film The Devil’s Backbone, both of which are dark parables that weave in real life themes, specifically the encroaching fascism in Europe in the 1940s. Doug Jones, also known as the Amphibian Man from The Shape of Water, plays similarly unrecognizable roles here as both the faun and the terrifying Pale Man. Pan’s Labyrinth deservedly won Academy Awards for Best Makeup, Best Production Design, and Best Cinematography. 

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The Florida Project (2017)

The Florida Project
Image via A24 Films

Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 55m
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 80% (Audience)

After first hitting the scene with his iPhone shot drama about transgender sex workers Tangerine, director Sean Baker explored a story about similarly lesser privileged people in The Florida Project. The film centers on the lives of young girl Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) as they live in a motel in Florida near Disney World, trying to make the most of their circumstances. Moonee daydreams and plays around the motel, which often annoys the cranky, yet understanding motel manager (Willem Dafoe). The Florida Project works because the characters feel so lived in thanks to the performances of Prince and Vinaite, as well as the direction that captures exactly how a young child would view the surreal beauty of Orlando, Florida. Lovely and empathetic, The Florida Project is yet another complex portrait of those living on the edges of society from Sean Baker. 

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Training Day (2001)

'Training Day'
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h
Rotten Tomatoes: 73% (Critics) 89% (Audience)

Writer/director David Ayer exploded onto the film scene with 2001’s Training Day, which was largely a critical and commercial success. The crime thriller follows rookie cop Jake (Ethan Hawke) on his first day as a narcotics officer alongside detective Alonzo (Denzel Washington), whose methods of enforcing the laws are questionable, bordering on corrupt. Ayer’s gritty sense of realism that can be observed in movies like End of Watch and Fury arrived fully formed with this intense thriller that boasts a truly great performance by Denzel Washington. Ethan Hawke holds his own, but it’s Washington, in an Academy Award-winning performance, that elevates the film into the pantheon of great cop thrillers. As fun and intense as the first time you watch it, Training Day is endlessly rewatchable and one of Denzel’s best movies.

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I Care A Lot (2021)

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Image via Publicist

Director: J Blakeson
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Dianne Wiest
Genre: Thriller, Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 58m
Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (Critics) 36% (Audience)

A recent Golden Globes winner, I Care A Lot is the latest dark comedy taking aim at our current state of late capitalism. It follows Marla (Rosamund Pike), a legal guardian who scams the elderly out of their money, as she attempts to defraud her latest target, Jennifer (Dianne Wiest), but soon finds herself in over her head when she discovers Jennifer’s own connections to illegal activities. Rosamund Pike is a devilish joy to watch in a role that’s reminiscent of her own star making role in 2014’s Gone Girl. What could otherwise be a decent movie about scammers becomes elevated thanks to Pike’s verve and talent at delivering amoral monologues, a talent that earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. Her performance combined with assured direction and a fun supporting performance from Birds of Prey’s Chris Messina makes I Care A Lot one of the most lively Netflix original films in recent memory. 

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The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as the Joker in 'The Dark Knight'
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Genre: Action
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 32m
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (Critics) 94% (Audience)

A modern superhero movie classic, The Dark Knight is still impressive more than a decade later. The movie follows Batman (Christian Bale) as he continues to fight crime in Gotham and comes up against two of his biggest foes yet: the maniacally murderous Joker (Heath Ledger) and the monstrous Two Face (Aaron Eckhart). While previous entry Batman Begins was good enough to make fans forget about some of the goofier ‘90s Batman movies, The Dark Knight truly wowed fans with some impressive action sequences, a brilliant performance from Heath Ledger (winning him a posthumous Academy Award), and a riveting story with plenty of twist and turns. Even more impressive are the intense action sequences reminiscent of the very best of crime thriller auteur Michael Mann. The Dark Knight is arguably the height of the Batman movie canon, and is still one of the best superhero movies of the past two decades.

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Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Malcolm & Marie
Image via Netflix

Director: Sam Levinson
Cast: John David Washington, Zendaya
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 46m
Rotten Tomatoes: 58% (Critics) 72% (Audience)

Sam Levinson, director of 2018’s Assassination Nation and creator of HBO’s Euphoria, shocked the film world when he announced he had written and directed a film during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first film to be made under those conditions. The result is the newly released Malcolm & Marie. The romantic drama follows couple Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) as their relationship is tested the night of the premiere of Malcolm’s new film. Shot on film and in sparse black and white, the film is intense and purposefully claustrophobic, focusing on an argument playing out in real time between the two characters after Malcolm forgot to thank Marie at the premiere. Zendaya gives an especially exceptional performance that brings to mind her Emmy award winning work on Euphoria, and almost outshines John David Washington, who’s great as well. Intense, moving, and thought provoking, Malcolm & Marie is a big step forward for director Sam Levinson, as well as a further showcase for Zendaya’s talent. 

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School Daze (1988)

School Daze
Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell-Martin
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 1m 
Rotten Tomatoes:  56% (Critics) 79% (Audience)

A year before the career-defining milestone that is Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee was capturing a different type of portrait: college life at HBCUs. Based on Lee’s own experiences at Morehouse in the 1970s, School Daze follows the clash between fraternity and sorority members at an HBCU during homecoming weekend. A mashup of genres, the film is a comedy-drama, but has several musical elements as well, making it one of Lee’s most unique films. The cast is top notch as well, with Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin in charming lead roles, as well as supporting roles played by Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Darryl M. Bell, who would later all go on to star in Cosby Show spin-off A Different World, itself a show centered on an HBCU. While primarily a joyful hangout comedy, School Daze also sets its sights on important college-related topics such as hazing, colorism, and elitism, which are all still too relevant to modern day HBCUs. Few directors can balance cinematic joy alongside textured political commentary like Spike Lee, and School Daze is one of the best examples of this balance. 

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Inception (2010)

Inception
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy
Genre: Sci Fi, Action
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 28m
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 91% (Audience)

Before Christopher Nolan was confusing audiences with temporal pincer movements, he was confusing audiences (to much greater effect) with dream worlds in 2010’s Inception. The film follows Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a hired team of professionals as they travel into the dreams of a CEO in order to “incept” or plant a memory into his head. Essentially a heist movie, Inception shines with its mind bending special effects, which hold up more than a decade later. A standout sequence involving Cobb’s partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fighting a man in a rotating hallway still astounds and prompts one to wonder just how they shot it. It’s plot, while a bit labyrinthine, also remains affecting, especially the last sequence and now iconic ending shot. Christopher Nolan proved his directorial genius with the groundbreaking, fantastic looking, and just plain fun to watch Inception.

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The White Tiger (2021)

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Image via Netflix

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Vedant Sinha
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 6m 
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (Critics) 83% (Audience)

Based on the New York Times bestselling 2008 novel of the same name, Netflix original The White Tiger follows Balram (Adarsh Gourav), a poor Indian villager who manages to become a driver for wealthy couple Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). After a betrayal, Balram discovers the lengths to which the wealthy will protect themselves at his own expense, and decides to use his wit and cunning to rebel against an unequal system. Bleakly humorous, The White Tiger takes a sledgehammer to the ideas at the center of capitalist Indian society, illustrating how stark the divide between rich and poor really is. Adarsh Gourav is electric in the lead role, as he straddles the line between sympathetic and conniving in a ruthless world, contrastingly with the satiric performances from Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as rich people ignorant of actual struggle. The White Tiger is biting and audacious, and a more than worthy addition to the Netflix original library. 

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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 51m
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (Critics) 88% (Audience)

“We rob banks.” With that line, Faye Dunaway cemented her iconic role as Bonnie Parker in the annals of cinema. Bonnie and Clyde is a brutal masterpiece, telling the story of the titular real life bank robbers (Dunaway and Warren Beatty) from their romantic beginnings to their violent ends. Controversial at the time for its alleged “ultraviolence,” Bonnie and Clyde is still pretty bloody even by today’s standards—the ending is still one of the bloodiest in cinematic history. Bonnie and Clyde is considered one of the first films of “New Hollywood” because of its rejection of old cinematic taboos, its large popularity with the younger generation at the time, and how it helped usher in a new, creatively innovative era of modern filmmaking. Bonnie and Clyde went on to become countercultural heroes thanks to both the popularity of the film and Dunaway and Warren Beatty’s brilliant performances. Bonnie and Clyde is a violent and exciting classic that’s among the best and most important movies of all time.

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Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler
Image via Universal

Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 57m
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% (Critics) 85% (Audience)

Nightcrawler, a bleak media satire, features one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best and least talked about performances. The film centers on petty thief Louis (Gyllenhaal), as he finds himself embroiled in the world of L.A. crime journalism when he begins filming violent events and selling them to a local television station. A metaphor for the way capitalism forces us to give up our humanity in return for money and power, Louis’s moral deterioration is captured in terrifying detail by Gyllenhaal. His own gaunt appearance contrasts with the eerie, glowing nightlife of Los Angeles captured in the film. Rounding out the ensemble is Rene Russo as Louis’s ruthless news producer and Riz Ahmed as Louis’s naive assistant Rick, both giving great performances on polar ends of the moral spectrum. Evocative and gripping, Nightcrawler stays with you long after you watch thanks to Gyllenhaal.

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Cool Hand Luke (1967)

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Image via Getty/ John Springer Collection / Contributor

Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG
Runtime: 2h 9m
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (Critics) 95% (Audience)

Paul Newman stands among the best and most charming actors to ever grace the silver screen. His long career spans six decades and includes numerous great films, including the film that cemented his name as a leading man: Cool Hand Luke. The prison drama film follows Southern chain gang prisoner Luke (Paul Newman) as he repeatedly escapes prison and is recaptured by prison guards, inspiring the other prisoners with his nonconformist attitude. Cool Hand Luke was a huge hit that’s indicative of much of the cultural shift that was happening in late 1960s America. The prison drama genre was frequently used to communicate anti-authoritarian themes, which felt all too relevant during the Vietnam war era. The movie itself was the epitome of cool thanks to one of Newman’s finest leading performances, a cast of lovable rogues, and a story that’s as uplifting as it is gritty. Cool Hand Luke remains one of the very best movies ever made, as well as one of the most culturally important. 

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Mud (2013)

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Image via FilmNation Entertainment

Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 10m
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Critics) 80% (Audience)

Remember the McConnaisance? Matthew McConaughey’s comeback period from 2011-2014 was at the center of pop culture, with the actor turning in great performances in Magic MikeDallas Buyers Club, and The Wolf of Wall Street. One of his more understated roles from that period is in 2013’s Mud. The drama centers on two boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who encounter a fugitive named “Mud” (McConaughey) and help him avoid the authorities so he can be reunited with his lover. McConaughey’s performance plays to his strengths: he’s as charming as he is potentially dangerous, and it makes complete sense why the two lead boys would look up to him. Director Jeff Nichols does impressive work as well, animating a realistic looking American south that manages to feel mythic in scale. Mud’s a thrilling drama that is bolstered into even greater heights thanks to a great performance from Matthew McConaughey.

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The Departed (2006)

'The Departed'
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 32m
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (Critics) 94% (Audience)

Loosely based on the life of real life mobster Whitey Bulger, The Departed follows Irish mob boss Francis Costello (Jack Nicholson), who places Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as a plant within the Massachusetts State Police, while state trooper William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes undercover to infiltrate Costello’s crew. Director Martin Scorsese’s triumphant return to gangster movies after 2004’s left field The AviatorThe Departed was a welcome critical and commercial surprise, hearkening back to some of his best work, such as Goodfellas and Casino. The film also gave Scorsese the chance to work with the legendary Jack Nicholson, in one of his last roles before his ostensible retirement in the early 2010s. The film that famously finally won Martin Scorsese an Oscar for Best Director, The Departed is one of his best modern works, a twisted and suspenseful crime thriller with an unforgettable ending. 

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 38m
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 86% (Audience)

After 2010’s critical and commercial smash hit The Social Network, director David Fincher decided to go in a completely different direction. Adapted from the hit crime novel of the same name, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo centers on journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy man’s niece 40 years earlier with the help of tattooed punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and stumbles upon a chilling conspiracy. Like Fincher’s earlier films Se7en and Fight ClubThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo does not hold back in the violence department, depicting shocking and grotesque action in Fincher’s typically controlled, meticulous style. Rooney Mara gives one of her best and most striking performances as the brusque Lisbeth, becoming virtually unrecognizable and earning an Academy Award nomination. Full of shocking twists and turns, lurid action, and remarkable performances, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a top notch film from one of our best directors.

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Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. of 'Sherlock Holmes'
Image via Getty/Jim Spellman

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
Genre: Mystery, Action
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 8m
Rotten Tomatoes: 69% (Critics) 77% (Audience)

Director Guy Ritchie is known for his films about lovable British rogues who have to outsmart their enemies (1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000’s Snatch), so it makes sense that he would be tasked to direct a modern film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes follows, of course, the titular detective (Robert Downey Jr.) and his assistant Watson (Jude Law) as they try to solve the mystery of a foe who has seemingly returned from the dead and threatens all of England. This version of Sherlock Holmes is decidedly more action-based, with Holmes participating in fist fights on top of his usual sleuthing and deduction. Ritchie uses his signature slow motion sequences here to highlight some of the more exhilarating action, letting the viewer bask in it. The movie is also well-cast, with Downey and Law shining in their roles, as well as Rachel McAdams as the mysterious Holmes’ ex-lover, Irene Adler. Full of twists and turns as well as plenty of satisfying action, Sherlock Holmes is a blockbuster that’s always worth a revisit. 

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Image via Netflix

Director: George C. Wolfe
Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% (Critics) 81% (Audience)

August Wilson is considered one of the greatest playwrights of all time, enjoying considerable critical and commercial success on the stage with a long list of works specifically focusing on the African American experience. Since his death in 2005, Denzel Washington has helped bring his work to movie screens, stating, “The greatest part of what’s left of my career is making sure that August is taken care of.” He’s since directed 2016’s Fences and produced this year’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The Netflix original takes place in 1920’s Chicago and centers on blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) as tensions rise between her, her trumpet player (Chadwick Boseman), and her racist white management. Viola Davis is a perfect match for August Wilson’s words, as is Chadwick Boseman in his (tragically last) bombastic performance. Both actors go all out, giving two of the most searing film performances this year, making the play come to cinematic life. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom more than does service to its source material, and also serves as a moving swan song for the late Chadwick Boseman.

Django Unchained (2012)

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Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington
Genre: Action, Western
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 45m
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 91% (Audience)

Quentin Tarantino continued his historical revisionist period that started with 2009’s smash hit Inglourious Basterds with 2012’s equally successful Django Unchained. Inspired by the spaghetti Western genre, the action thriller follows the formerly enslaved Django (Jamie Foxx) as he teams up with German bounty hunter Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to save his wife (Kerry Washington) from psychopathic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The result is a stunningly violent (it is a Tarantino movie) pulp revenge flick that takes direct aim at the evils of racism and slavery. The subject matter is undeniably difficult, but what makes the film really work are the top-notch performances from the three leads. Jamie Foxx shines, portraying Django’s righteous fury; Christoph Waltz is charming and wistful as the man devoted to helping Django in his quest no matter what; and Leonardo DiCaprio takes a complete 180 from his usual roles, playing a completely repulsive sadist who weaponizes DiCaprio’s usual charm to wicked ends. Django Unchained is a pulpy, violent delight that is among Tarantino’s best.

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Mank (2020)

mank
Image via Netflix

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Burke
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 12m
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 71% (Audience)

For many, Citizen Kane is the very best film of all time, revolutionizing the look and feel of movies with its release in 1941. It’s also the brainchild of its writer/director/star Orson Welles, one of the most lauded directors in history. The person who’s often left out of the conversation, co-screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, is at the center of 2020’s Mank. The David Fincher film follows Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), affectionately known as “Mank,” as he finishes the screenplay to Citizen Kane in spite of his rampant alcoholism and contentious political views. Mank seeks to take a second look at the Hollywood of the 1930s and peel back the romantic notions of the era to reveal a place that was creatively fraught and all too susceptible to corrupt, fascist forces. Gary Oldman’s performance is the prickly center of Mank, but Amanda Seyfried especially shines as Marion Davies, a real-life silent star who manages to defrost Mank just enough. Mank’s a must-watch for any fan of old Hollywood.

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A Clockwork Orange (1972)

'A Clockwork Orange'
Image via Publicist

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates
Genre: Sci Fi, Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 17m
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (Critics) 93% (Audience)

An adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange is as famous for being controversial as it is for being a cinematic classic. The film follows ruthless gang leader Alex (Malcolm McDowell), who is arrested for rape and murder and undergoes a rehabilitation therapy that has unintended effects on his psyche. Despite being rated “X” when it was released in America in 1972 because of its disturbing violence, A Clockwork Orange went on to become a critical and commercial success, with nominations for several Oscars. The film’s memorable and graphic subject matter serves not only to shock, but also to comment on social, political, and economic issues in Britain at the time. A Clockwork Orange is hard to watch, but brilliant.

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

The Trial of the Chicago 7
Image via Netflix/Niko Tavernise

Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 9m
Rotten Tomatoes: 90% (Critics) 90% (Audience)

Nearly three decades after A Few Good Men, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin laced up his gloves for a courtroom drama, and it’s clear the Oscar-winning scribe still has a gift for marrying the theatrical and judicial. Revolving around the infamous 1969 trial and its eight original defendants—Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II)—The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn’t waste a second using its immense talent on or off camera. Pinball dialogue and action-oriented flashbacks bounce you from character to character, leading you through the story so that, come time for the verdict to be handed down, you can’t help but fear for each and every one. Even the motivations of prosecutor Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are laid bare, casting shades of morality across each scene and avoiding the common good-vs.-evil peril that befalls most trial dramas. Full of talent, entertainment, and present-day parallels, this may be Netflix’s best original movie yet.

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Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

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Image via Netflix

Director: Kirsten Johnson
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1h 29m
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (Critics), 78% (Audience)

The follow-up to her widely acclaimed 2016 debut, Cameraperson, documentarian Kirsten Johnson’s new film, Dick Johnson Is Dead, is receiving similar critical acclaim. The Netflix original follows Kirsten and her father, Richard, who suffers from dementia, as they playfully act out numerous scenarios in which he could die. While that may sound morbid and a bit inappropriate on paper, the documentary is a lively, magical look at life, death, and love. Johnson’s filmmaking expertise is perfectly in line with her and her father’s own darkly comedic sensibilities. Johnson expertly examines her father’s life and eventual death in ways that are complex and life-affirming while also cognizant of our own individual mortality. Johnson has further cemented herself as one of the very best documentarians working right now with Dick Johnson Is Dead

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The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

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Image via Getty/ Rich Fury / Staff

Director: Radha Blank
Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 3m
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% (Critics), 63% (Audience)

One of the best indie film debuts in recent years, The Forty-Year-Old Version marks the arrival of a very promising cinematic voice in writer/director/star, Radha Blank. The comedy-drama follows Radha (Blank), once a rising playwright, who embraces turning 40 without any major success by reinventing herself as a rapper. With its black-and-white cinematography and loosely autobiographical plot, Blank uses a lot of the tools that bring to mind other comedians, such as Woody Allen and Louis CK, but smartly subverts it in service of a story centered around a Black woman, as opposed to a white man. Beyond expressing frustration at attempting to create in a world that feels very white male-centric, the film also gets at the central difficulty of trying to be creative when you feel like you were hyped up early on and are now way past your prime. Blank explores this idea in both funny and melancholy ways, but manages to embrace a hopeful tone without ever becoming corny. The Forty-Year-Old Version is a breath of fresh air in the world of recent indie cinema.

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The Devil All the Time (2020)

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Image via Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Director: Antonio Campos
Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Haley Bennett
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 18m 
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (Critics), 81% (Audience)

The latest Netflix original is as dark and twisted as it is star-studded. Based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollack, The Devil All the Time follows several characters living in Southern Ohio and West Virginia in the ’60s, including a serial killer couple and a spider-handling preacher, focusing on the good-natured but violent Arvin (Tom Holland) as he attempts to stop the corruption he witnesses in his town. The film is a total 180 for star Tom Holland, going from the much more tame Marvel Cinematic Universe to a dark contemplation of humanity’s grimmest impulses. The film’s all-star cast shines, including Robert Pattinson, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, and Mia Wasikowska. Well-directed with great characterization, The Devil All the Time is a dark delight that could very well garner Oscar attention.

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I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro
Image via Magnolia Pictures

Director: Raoul Peck
Genre: Documentary 
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% (Critics) 83% (Audience)

The works of James Baldwin continue to be insightful and vital decades after he wrote them, and while Baldwin had lived a long and extraordinary life, he never got the chance to finish writing a memoir, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript titled Remember This House. This manuscript is the basis for Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which is a look into the thoughts and experiences of Baldwin himself, in his own words. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary examines the long history of systemic racism in the United States using Baldwin’s writing, focusing on his memories of key civil rights figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. Baldwin’s intelligence is unparalleled as a writer, which comes as no surprise in I Am Not Your Negro; the real surprise is how prescient his writing is, describing an America that hasn’t changed very much at all in the decade since. His words come to life with evocative archival footage, smartly utilized clips of classic American films, and an uncharacteristically tender Samuel L. Jackson voiceover. I Am Not Your Negro is a stunning look at one of the greatest literary minds America has ever known.

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Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

fiddler-on-the-roof
Image via Getty/ullstein bild Dtl./Contributor

Director: Norman Jewison
Cast: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey
Genre: Musical
Rating: G
Runtime: 3h 1m
Rotten Tomatoes: 83% (Critics) 92% (Audience)

An adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical of the same name, Fiddler on the Roof is a musical classic that has charmed generations. The movie follows Tevye (Topol), the father of three daughters, who deals with the marriage prospects of his daughters and the encroachment of anti-Semitism in his village. One of the most important Jewish films in recent memory, Fiddler on the Roof dives deep into the cultural roots of Judaism and how to reconcile one’s actions with a higher power in a specifically Jewish sense. Much of the film is about the passage of time and how tradition can evolve as we grow older and learn more about ourselves. Beyond its cultural significance, Fiddler has some great music as well, with Tevye’s “If I Was A Rich Man” being a popular highlight. A family epic with plenty of heart and artistry, Fiddler on the Roof is a musical triumph. 

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Uncut Gems (2020)

'Uncut Gems'
Image via A24 Films

Director: Josh and Benny Safdie
Cast: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel
Genre: R
Rating: Thriller
Runtime: 2h 15m
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Critics) 52% (Audience)

The Safdie brothers’ follow-up to their acclaimed 2017 film Good Time finds them collaborating with none other than Adam Sandler. The crime thriller follows New York City jeweler Howie (Adam Sandler), as he comes into possession of a rare Ethiopian opal and soon finds himself risking it all in order to pay an increasing amount of debt to angry and violent collectors. Like Good TimeUncut Gems is a visceral, stressful ride that never lets up. The film also shows the Safdies getting even better at their craft, with tense camerawork and impressive performances that make the chaotic world of Manhattan’s diamond district come to life. Adam Sandler was robbed of an Oscar nomination, Julia Fox makes a memorable acting debut as Howie’s girlfriend Julia, and most surprising of all, Kevin Garnett plays himself in a performance that rivals his trained actor peers. Uncut Gems is further proof that Josh and Benny Safdie are two of the best directors working right now.

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The Half of It (2020)

half-of-it-netflix
Image via Netflix

Director: Alice Wu
Cast: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer
Genre: Romance
Rating: PG-14
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Critics) 80% (Audience)

Director Alice Wu made her mark on the independent film scene in 2005 with Saving Face, a moderately successful drama based on her own experiences as a lesbian Chinese-American. Almost two decades later Wu has finally made her sophomore film with Netflix’s The Half of It. Loosely inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac, it follows shy teenager Ellie (Leah Lewis) as she helps inarticulate football player Paul (Daniel Diemer) win over his crush Astor (Alexxis Lemire), whom she also has a crush on. There are plenty of coming of age Netflix original films, but few have the genuine charm and nuance that The Half of It has plenty of. Lewis and Diemer give life to characters that might otherwise feel like stock teen movie characters, and Wu’s writing smartly centers on Ellie’s own self-actualization. Deft and sweet, The Half of It joins the roster of great teen coming of age Netflix original movies.

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The Irishman (2019)

irishman
Image via Netflix

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 3h 29m 
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 86% (Audience)

Martin Scorsese’s latest is his longest and most ambitious effort in his five decade long career. The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he reminisces on his life going from truck driver to hitman involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his crime family, as well as eventually working for Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Clocking in at three and a half hours, The Irishman is a mammoth of a film, but it’s all in important service to the film’s themes: the movie itself feels as long as Frank’s storied life, and is necessary to make these characters feel as lived in as they do. Where other Scorsese mob epics like Goodfellas and Casino are purposefully flashy and exhilarating, The Irishman instead uses silence and bitter introspection as the characters run out the clocks on unexamined lives full of selfish crime and violence. Possibly the darkest entry in Scorsese’s filmography, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino give some of the finest performances of their careers and Scorsese’s direction is as vivid and breathtaking as ever. The Irishman is easily one of the best movies of the year

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Marriage Story (2019)

Marriage Story
Image via Netflix

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johannson, Laura Dern
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 16m
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (Critics) 85% (Audience)

Director Noah Baumbach has made his career making films about prickly people, from his debut feature Kicking and Screaming to The Squid and the Whale to Greenberg. While his work (and romantic partnership) with Greta Gerwig led to more buoyant fare such as Frances Ha and Mistress America, Baumbach returns to the sharp dramedy he’s been known for with Marriage Story. The film follows the lives of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johannson) as they go through an increasingly bitter, coast to coast divorce while raising their only child. The film carefully splits its time between both Charlie and Nicole, making them feel fully three dimensional, and making their actions completely understandable even when they act cruelly towards each other, with their respective lawyers—played with devilish charm by Laura Dern and Ray Liotta—often serving as proxy. The film succeeds by having two of the best performances of the year in Driver and Johannson, as well as deftly portraying the highs and lows of a marriage, particularly how devastating it can be when one fails. Marriage Story is heartbreaking, vital, and one of the best acted films of the year. 

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The Two Popes (2019)

The Two Popes
Image via Netflix/Peter Mountain

Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujín
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 6m
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (Critics) N/A (Audience)

You’ve heard of the young pope, maybe even heard of the new pope, but have you heard of the two popes? The latest in the Pope Cinematic Universe (PCU), The Two Popes is sure to be an Oscar contender this year. It centers on the real life meeting between then Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) in 2012, as they hash their ideological differences and signal a major shift in the direction of the Catholic Church. From Fernando Meirelles, director of City of God, comes this biopic starring two of our most acclaimed British actors. Hopkins and Pryce are reliably great in these roles, and the stunning production design adds to the importance of the decisions that these two men have on a worldwide religion. The Two Popes is another fascinating look into a position of power that’s strangely popular to depict right now.

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Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Dolemite Is My Name
Image via Netflix

Director: Craig Brewer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Craig Robinson, Titus Burgess
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 58m
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Critics) 91% (Audience)

 The blaxploitation genre is an often overlooked and very important part of film history. While blaxploitation movies were often exceedingly violent and played into stereotypes more often than not, it was the first time black audiences saw black characters on screen that they could identify with and root for, as many other mainstream movies only had black characters in minor roles. Dolemite Is My Name centers on one of the biggest figures in the blaxploitation scene: comedian/actor Rudy Ray Moore, star of the comedic blaxploitation movie Dolemite and its sequels. Starring Eddie Murphy as Moore, Dolemite Is My Name follows his life as he becomes a successful standup comedian and decides he wants to become a major black movie star as well. Not only a worthy comeback for Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name is also a love letter to a culturally important film genre that could always deserve more love.

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Atlantics (2019)

atlantics-cast
Image via Getty/ Charley Gallay

Director: Mati Diop
Cast: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 76% (Audience)

Winner of the Grand Prix award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Atlantics is one of the most critically praised movies of that year. Written and directed by Mati Diop, the film follows Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), who’s to be married to another man but is in love with construction worker Suleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), who is working on a futuristic tower overlooking the city of Dakar in Senegal. When Souleiman and the other co-workers leave the country for a better life, mysterious events ruin Ada’s wedding days later, seemingly connected to Souleiman’s departure. While having elements of romantic drama, Atlantics quickly turns into a beguiling supernatural tinged, beautifully shot magic realist drama. To say too much about it would ruin the wonderfully strange experience that is Atlantics. Mysterious and one of a kind, Atlantics is one of the very best movies currently on Netflix, English language or otherwise.

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I Lost My Body (2019)

i-lost-my-body
Image via Getty/ Borja G. Hojas

Director: Jérémy Clapin
Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 1h 21m
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) N/A (Audience)

One of the most critically acclaimed animated movies of the year (that isn’t Toy Story 4) just hit Netflix. I Lost My Body was a big hit at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, winning the coveted Nespresso Grand Prize—becoming the first animated film to do so. The film centers on young man Naofel (Hakim Faris) as he falls in love with a librarian named Gabrielle (Victoire du Bois) after an accident in which he loses his hand. Meanwhile, his hand awakens in the morgue and journeys across France to be reunited with its owner. With a truly original plot, I Lost My Body mixes romantic and surreal tones well, with an evocative score by French band The Dø and some beautiful animation. Naofel and Gabrielle’s scenes are quietly romantic while the scenes with his hand evoke a darker version of Homeward Bound. One of the most unique and best movies of the year, I Lost My Body is another great addition to Netflix’s library of originals in a year full of them. 

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Knock Down The House (2019)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx
Image via Getty/Scott Heins

Director: Rachel Lears
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG
Runtime: 1h 27m
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% (Critics) 20% (Audience)

Knock Down The House director Rachel Lears immediately began work on a documentary about female politicians the day after the 2016 election. She sought out female candidates who weren’t career politicians, but were motivated by the election to represent their communities. In Knock Down The House, she profiles Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia, Cori Bush of Missouri, Amy Vilela of Nevada, and a candidate you may have heard of named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Lears astonishingly managed to follow AOC’s historic rise from the moment she decided to run, long before her stunning defeat of incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 2018 midterm election primaries, which catapulted her into national stardom. While AOC’s story is the most famous and successful story of all four candidates featured, the documentary is generally remarkable for being an uplifting movie about politics, which is an arduous task these days. Knock Down The House ultimately posits that there is a genuinely exciting surge of inspiring and hard working grassroots politicians who are trying to make the world a better place for everyone.

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Always Be My Maybe (2019)

'Always Be My Maybe' cast
Image via Getty/Kevin Winter

Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keanu Reeves
Genre: Romance
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1h 42m
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (Critics) N/A (Audience)

Netflix once again proves it owns the romantic comedy market with this recently released crowd pleaser. Always Be My Maybe follows chef Sasha (Ali Wong) who, after a breakup, begins feeling old sparks of attraction with a childhood friend (Randall Park) after seeing him for the first time in fifteen years. Always Be My Maybe is the latest hit for comedian Ali Wong, who previously made her splash on Netflix with her comedy special Baby Cobra and her starring role in Tuca & Bertie, and she’s credited with co-writing the film as well. The film, while predictably hitting the usual romantic comedy beats, is genuinely charming, thanks to the performances from Wong and Park. Always Be My Maybe also features a hysterical scene with Keanu Reeves playing himself on a date with Wong’s character that really needs to be seen to be believed. Always Be My Maybe is perfect if you’re in the mood for a solid and charming romantic comedy.

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High Flying Bird (2019)

Zazie Beetz of 'High Flying Bird'
Image via Getty/Steven Ferdman

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Andre Holland, Melvin Gregg, Zazie Beetz
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Critics) 49% (Audience)

One of Netflix’s latest originals is also one of the most critically-acclaimed movies of 2019 so far. Based on the real-life 2011 NBA lockout, High Flying Bird follows sports agent Ray Burke (Andre Holland) as he advises his rookie client (Melvin Gregg) on a controversial business opportunity that might just end the lockout and change the game forever. Logan Lucky director Steven Soderbergh is known for his flawless directing and uncanny ability to capture institutions, and High Flying Bird is further proof of this, boasting stunning iPhone-exclusive cinematography and sketching an efficient portrait of the (slightly fictionalized) NBA. Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney’s script crackles as well, featuring scenes filled with wall-to-wall fast-paced dialogue. McCraney and Soderbergh manage to make High Flying Bird so much more than just a typical sports drama: it’s also a deep look into the racism ingrained in the NBA and how one can be an activist within the institution itself. High Flying Bird is an intelligent and riveting watch.

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The Laundromat (2019)

The Laundromat
Image via Netflix/Claudette Barius

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rotten Tomatoes: 41% (Critics) 40% (Audience)

Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest finds him working with his most star-studded cast in years. Fresh off this year’s High Flying Bird (also for Netflix), Soderbergh’s now released the comedy drama The Laundromat. Based on the real life Mossack Fonseca scandal, the movie follows average woman Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep), as she investigates a fake insurance policy and uncovers a crooked law firm led by partners Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) that seeks to help the world’s richest people get richer. As with High Flying Bird, Soderbergh continues his fascination with corrupt institutions and the ways capitalism keeps the average person at a disadvantage. Here he explores these themes with a more comedic, The Big Short-esque feel, in a comedy drama that’s likely to receive some Oscar nominations thanks to Soderbergh’s name and its star-studded cast, which also includes Jeffrey Wright and Sharon Stone. The Laundromat is yet another big swing from Netflix that will include it in the Oscar conversation.


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El Camino (2019)

Production still from El Camino: A Breaking Bad Film
Image via Netflix

Director: Vince Gilligan
Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemmons, Robert Forster
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 2h 2m
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (Critics) 81% (Audience)

When Breaking Bad aired its series finale four years ago few would have guessed that we would ever see where Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) ended up after escaping captivity from neo-Nazis thanks to Walter White. Now El Camino is here to answer the questions every Bad fan has had since then. Surprise announced as a Netflix original film a few months ago, El Camino follows Jesse in the days following the Breaking Bad finale, as he evades the law and attempts to find sanctuary. Like the show itself, El Camino is tense and darkly funny, featuring appearances from some Breaking Bad favorites, including Todd (Jesse Plemmons) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) and other favorites. While El Camino isn’t truly surprising plotwise, it makes up for it in a great performance from Paul, as well as expressive and breathtaking direction from series creator Vince Gilligan as he showcases the visual beauty the show was known for. El Camino is a more than worthy return to the Breaking Bad universe that will leave you satisfied.

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Hugo (2011)

Chloe Grace Moretz
Image via George Pimentel/Getty

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 2h 6m
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (Critics) 78% (Audience)

Martin Scorsese, the famed director of Taxi DriverGoodfellas, and The Departed, directing a children’s movie? It happened and the result is 2011’s charming Hugo. Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by celebrated children’s author Brian Selznick, the movie follows young Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan that lives in a train station in Paris in the 1930s, as he gets caught up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D, Hugo looks as visually audacious as any of his other movies, if not more so, thanks to his intelligent use of 3D textures. What’s most remarkable about Hugo is that it’s one of Scorsese’s most sentimental: it’s not so secretly an ode to the history of cinema and filmmaking itself, hidden inside the curious journey of a lonely orphan. Another cinematic achievement from one of our best directors, Hugo is as much a delight to cinephiles as it is to children. 

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Good Time (2017)

Good Time
Image via A24 Films

Director: Benny and Josh Safdie
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Genre: Drama
Rating: R 
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Critics) 81% (Audience)

The Safdie brothers are now better known for 2019’s critically acclaimed—and soon to be A24’s highest domestic grossing film—Uncut Gems, but their earlier collaboration with A24 in 2017, Good Time, deserves just as much love. The film follows Connie (Robert Pattinson), a would-be bank robber, as he attempts to get enough money to get his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out on parole. His attempts lead him all over New York City as circumstances get progressively more dangerous for both Connie and Nick. Their third feature, Good Time is representative of what the Safdies do best: escalating darkly comedic situations, gritty realism, and stress-inducing camerawork that makes you feel just as trapped as the characters are. Pattinson once again proves his art film cred with an exhilarating lead performance in this, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is perfectly grating in an underrated supporting performance. Good Time is yet another great film by the Safdie brothers, who are proving to be two of the best directors working right now.

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Molly’s Game (2017)

mollys-game
Image via Getty/ANGELA WEISS/Contributor

Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 21m
Rotten Tomatoes: 81% (Critics) 84% (Audience)

Aaron Sorkin has written some of the best screenplays of the past couple of decades, earning acclaim for penning the scripts to classics like A Few Good MenThe American President, and The Social Network. His 2017 directorial debut Molly’s Game didn’t get nearly enough attention, even though it stands pretty well among his best. Based on the memoir of the same name, the film follows Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic class skier who runs an exclusive poker empire for celebrities, business tycoons, and the mob, before becoming the target of an FBI investigation when her empire is exposed. Aaron Sorkin’s style of writing may be somewhat cliché at this point, but that doesn’t stop Molly’s Game from being fun: Jessica Chastain is having a blast as the typical hypercompetent Sorkin protagonist, and she has plenty of chemistry with Idris Elba, playing her lawyer. On top of that you have Michael Cera shining in a completely different role than what he usually plays, as Bloom’s most successful (and dickish) player, Player X (loosely based on Tobey Maguire). Molly’s Game is a must for Sorkin fans, but is overall one of the more purely enjoyable dramas of the past couple of years. 

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Steve Jobs (2015)

Cast of 'sTeve Jobs' at the 53rd New York Film Festival
Image via Getty/Nicholas Hunt

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rotten Tomatoes: 85% (Critics) 73% (Audience)

Aaron Sorkin previously expertly profiled a tech mogul with 2011’s The Social Network, so it was only a matter of time before he did it for one of the other big tech figures of our time: Steve Jobs. 2015’s Steve Jobs follows the titular Apple CEO (Michael Fassbender) as he prepares backstage at three different product launches, culminating in the 1998 unveiling of the original iMac. The movie takes an interesting approach to the biopic, with the movie essentially being three long scenes that happen in real time, as we watch Jobs and his collaborators Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) react to the stress prior to each conference. Being a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs has plenty of great, instantly quotable lines that fly by before you can even process them. Also a staple of Aaron Sorkin films: a central character who thinks himself as the center of the world, only to be humbled by those around him. Steve Jobs might be one of Sorkin’s best in this regard, with a moving ending that gets to the center of Jobs as a character, and his need for perfection. Steve Jobs is not only one of Sorkin’s best but is also one of director Danny Boyle’s more underrated movies.

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The Social Network (2010)

the-social-network
Image via Getty/Vera Anderson/Contributor

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 86% (Audience)

Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has had a long, sordid history which is still being shaped to this day. The positive and negative effects of the ubiquitous social network make 2010’s The Social Network fascinating to this day, especially with its creator/CEO regularly making headlines. The drama follows Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) at Harvard as he co-creates Facebook alongside best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Zuckerberg and Saverin find themselves quickly becoming millionaires as Facebook becomes a phenomenon, but find their friendship and success is threatened when a legal battle contesting who actually founded the site ensues. David Fincher has had a long storied career (Fight Club and Zodiac alone stand as two of the best American movies of their respective decades), but The Social Network still ranks as one of his very best movies with its tight direction, subtly emotional performances, and a whip smart Oscar winning screenplay from Aaron Sorkin. One of the best movies of the 2010’s, The Social Network is always worth a rewatch. 

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The Squid and the Whale (2005)

hard-to-watch-movie-scenes-squid-and-whale
Image via Getty/Evan Agostini

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 20m
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Critics) 81% (Audience)

Before director Noah Baumbach was known for 2013’s Frances Ha and his creative (and romantic) partnership with Greta Gerwig, he was directing acidic comedy dramas that explore thorny relationships between people. The Squid and The Whale is one of those movies, and may just be his best. Taking place in Brooklyn in the late 80’s, The Squid and The Whale follows teenagers Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Cline), as they deal with the impending divorce of their parents Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan (Laura Linney). Loosely based on Baumbach’s own childhood, the movie feels intensely nostalgic as well as uncomfortably real, as the family begins to splinter in darkly funny and dramatic ways. Daniels and Linney especially stand out as parents who love their children but deeply resent each other. Never over-emotional, the movie revels in its droll tone as the characters come to small realizations about each other only when they’re not overly self-obsessed or terrible to each other, which is often. With Baumbach’s Oscar buzz-y Marriage Story coming out later this year, now’s the perfect time to revisit his first foray into divorce drama. 

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There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood
Image via Miramax

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 38m
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (Critics) 86% (Audience)

One of the very best movies of the 2000’s, 2007’s There Will Be Blood also contains one of Daniel Day-Lewis’s best performances, which is saying something for the virtuoso actor. The movie follows the life of turn-of-the-century prospector Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), a man driven by greed and hatred for others, as he slowly gains power and alienates those around him, especially preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). There Will Be Blood is a movie that feels epic, both in the impressive sets, the span of the story, and the runtime, but the movie never feels like a slog, thanks to a riveting story and riveting performances. The movie is also a scathing indictment of America at the turn of the century, in all of its cruel, unfeeling capitalism. A harsh, visually stunning parable with an unforgettable (and very memeable) ending, There Will Be Blood is yet another impressive film from the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson.

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20th Century Women (2016)

20th Century Women gets nostalgia right
Image via Variety

Director: Mike Mills
Cast: Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 58m
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (Critics) 74% (Audience)

Director Mike Mills followed up his 2009 hit Beginners with this similarly quirky and emotional coming of age story. Based in part on Mils’ own childhood, 20th Century Women follows teenage boy Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) as he is raised by his mother Dorothea (Annette Bening), and two young women, Abbie and Julie (Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, respectively) in Southern California in 1979. Dorothea, a divorcée, becomes concerned that Jamie won’t turn into the adult she wants him to be without a male influence in his life, and turns to Abbie and Julie to help guide Jamie through puberty. The result is a gentle and intelligent character study that examines all four individuals, as well as the time period. As the three women become cognizant of feminism in their own ways, this also directly effects Jamie’s life and how he views and treats other people, especially women. 20th Century Women is not only a well-made ode to the writer/director’s own life, but a moving tribute to the effect that feminism and positive female role models can have on developing teenage boys.

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Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight
Image via A24

Director: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 51m
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% (Critics) 79% (Audience)

When people look back at the 2010s, Moonlight will stand out as one of the best films of the decade, and for good reason. Director Barry Jenkins’ second and breakout feature, Moonlight was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2016, winning Best Picture at the 74th Academy Awards (the first LGBTQ-themed and first film with an all-black cast to do so). The film centers on the life of protagonist Chiron, split into three parts: his experiences as a child nicknamed “Little” (Alex Hibbert), as a teenager (Ashton Sanders), and as an adult nicknamed “Black” (Trevante Rhodes). Chiron’s own life is affected by poverty, bullying, and his struggles to come to terms with his gay identity growing up in a poor Miami neighborhood. Moonlight is notable for its sensitive and incisive portrayal of queer sexuality and how it intersects with both Chiron’s race and class status, as well as the incredible performances across the board, from all three actors who play Chiron to Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali (in an Oscar-winning performance).

WATCH ON NETFLIX

The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (2019)

Andy samberg
Image via Getty/Rich Fury

Director: Akiva Schaffer & Mike Diva
Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Genre: Comedy
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 30m
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

The Lonely Island is known for being hysterical but also completely random in their parody targets, so this Netflix special could have been about anything. That it turned out to be a Lemonade-style short film about a rap album written by Jose Canseco (Andy Samberg) and Mark McGwire (Akiva Schaffer) at the height of their baseball careers is just the amount of absurdity we expect from The Lonely Island. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is visually stunning for a comedic parody, and the parody songs written for the film are among the highest quality the group has produced. We won’t ruin the surprise of any of the cameos in this short film, but the presence of certain singers and comedians on the slow jam parody “Oakland Nights” and Janet Jackson parody “IHOP Parking Lot” really amps up the hilarity. The best part of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is that it’s hilarious with or without prior knowledge of the wild and weird careers of Canseco and McGwire, thanks to the comedic talents of The Lonely Island.

WATCH ON NETFLIX

Burning (2018)

Burning
Image via CGV Arthouse

Director: Lee Chang-dong
Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Jong-seo Jun, Steven Yeun
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 2h 28m
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% (Critics) 80% (Audience)

One of the most acclaimed non-English movies of last year, Burning is the latest film from acclaimed South Korean director Lee Chang-dong. Based on the short story “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami, Burning follows Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo), as he watches former neighbor Hae-mi’s (Jong-seo Jun) cat while she goes on a trip. When Hae-mi returns, she introduces Jong-su to Ben (Steven Yeun), a man she met while abroad. While the plot may seem simple, Burning has a mysterious and tense atmosphere as we learn more about the mysterious Ben, played wonderfully by former Walking Dead star Yeun. At two and a half hours, Burning is a slow burn (no pun intended) that will keep you hypnotized from beginning to end with its elusive stories and well drawn characters. Despite wide critical acclaim, Burning was not nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award, but became the first Korean film in history to make the nine-film shortlist for nomination.

WATCH ON NETFLIX

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