The 85 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (September 2020)

[Last Updated: September 25, 2020]

Trying to find the best movie to watch on Netflix can be a daunting challenge. We’ve all been there. You’ve decided you’re going to watch something. You have the entirety of Netflix at your disposal, including even a pared down list of films you’ve already bookmarked to watch at a future date. But then there’s the choosing. You’ve gotta find something that fits your mood, or something you and your friend/significant other/couch companion can agree on. You spend hours browsing, and by the time you stumble on something you think maybe is the one, it’s too late, you’re too tired, and indecision has won out.

Never fear, though, because we here at Collider have a guide to help you find the perfect Netflix movies available in the U.S. We’ve thumbed through the library and assembled a list of some of the best films currently available for streaming, from classics to hidden gems to new releases and beyond. This list of the best movies on Netflix is updated weekly with all-new choices, so be sure to return the next time you’re looking for something great to watch.

For even more curated streaming recommendations, check out our lists for the Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now and Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now and Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now.

Enola Holmes

Image via Legendary Entertainment/Netflix

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Writer: Jack Thorne

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Louis Partridge, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Helena Bonham Carter

Enola Holmes is one of the best and most charming Netflix original movies released thus far. Based on the book series of the same name by Nancy Springer, the period mystery follows Millie Bobby Brown’s titular character, who is the youngest Holmes sibling and has been raised nearly in solitude by her single mother. But when she awakes one day to find her mother is missing, she takes matters into her own hands and sneaks into London to solve the case. The film is tremendously fun as Enola fearlessly follows leads and hunts for clues, but it’s also a surprisingly touching mother-daughter story with legitimately feminist themes. The script actually takes time to consider what it means to be a woman in a man’s world in a way that’s organic (and important) to the story at hand. It’s one of Brown’s best performances, but Henry Cavill is also a delight as Sherlock Holmes himself. Once the movie ends you’ll be begging for Netflix to make many more sequels. – Adam Chitwood

Lady Bird

Image via A24

Director/Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush

I’m so glad Lady Bird exists and that it functions as an announcement that Greta Gerwig is not only a major talent, but also a talent that can go beyond herself. My fear going into Lady Bird was that the movie would be too autobiographical and Gerwig would have unintentionally created a parody of her mumblecore roles. Instead, she provided a film that was personal and specific. It’s a movie that relishes its lived-in relationships while never being exclusionary.

On my first viewing, I found the movie to be a very good example of the coming-of-age dramedy. Upon a repeat viewing, I see it as one of the best examples the genre has to offer. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are both amazing as they relish both the highs and lows of their mother-daughter relationship, and watching Lady Bird’s rocky senior year of high school, complete with all the honest missteps a teenager makes, turns Gerwig’s debut into an unforgettable feature. – Matt Goldberg

Sleepy Hollow

Image via Paramount Pictures

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, and Christopher Walken

What do you get when you combine the writer of Seven with the cinematographer behind The Revenant, director Tim Burton, and an iconically spooky story? You get Sleepy Hollow, lowkey one of the best “Halloween” movies ever made. This is a tremendously evocative adaptation that is atmospheric and chilling, but also a little goofy and a lot of fun. Johnny Depp plays police constable Ichabod Crane who is dispatched to the titular tiny town in 1799 to investigate a series of beheadings. Seriously, this is absolutely one of Tim Burton’s best films. – Adam Chitwood

A Knight's Tale

Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Writer/Director: Brian Helgeland

Cast: Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Laura Fraser, Alan Tudyk, Mark Addy, Berenice Bejo, James Purefoy

A Knight’s Tale is one of those purely joyful movies that goes down smooth no matter what mood you’re in. Heath Ledger is at the height of his heartthrob phase, unleashing that megawatt charm with, frankly, reckless abandon and showcasing the commanding screen presence that would make him an awards favorite before his untimely death. And he’s surrounded by an ace ensemble, with Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, Laura Fraser, and Mark Addy keeping up the comedy while Ledger smacks down the swoons. Writer/director Brian Helgeland reimagines the classic underdog sports tale in the realm of lords, ladies, and jousting knights, positively pumping up the jam with an anachronistic soundtrack full of bops and bangers, from Queen to David Bowie to Heart. If you forgot how good this soundtrack is, do yourself a favor and add it to your playlist asap, but the music doesn’t just objectively own, it further brightens up the spirits of this jovial peak-summer feel-good film, and ramps up the energy of the action scenes. In short, A Knight’s Tale will, in fact, rock you. — Haleigh Foutch

The Back to the Future Trilogy

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson

Surely one of the most rewatchable movie trilogies of all time, Back to the Future is pure entertainment. The production of the first film was famously difficult, with the recasting of the role of Marty McFly forcing the crew to reshoot much of the film. But in the end, the imagination of Robert Zemeckis shined through, as Back to the Future offers up one of the best time travel movies ever made. This film absolutely soars, mixing nostalgia for the 1950s with a tremendous tinge of sci-fi. The first sequel, Part II, offers a terrific wish-fulfillment view of the future before going back to the 50s in eye-popping fashion, and Part III travels to the Old West to give the franchise the sendoff it deserves. All three are well worth watching pretty much whenever you want to feel joy. – Adam Chitwood

Y Tu Mamá También

image via IFC Films

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Writers: Alfonso Cuarón and Carlos Cuarón

Cast: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, and Diego Luna

Before he made Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Children of Men or Gravity, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón directed the erotic masterpiece Y Tu Mamá También. The Spanish-language coming-of-age drama follows two teenage best friends who go on a road trip with a woman in her late twenties, only to discover much more about each other and themselves. It seems like a trite premise, but the film is lovingly crafted and gorgeously shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Cuarón captures teenage ennui brilliantly, and while this is a “coming-of-age” story, the focus isn’t entirely on the young boys—Maribel Verdú’s chararacter is fully realized as Cuarón explores the anxieties and fears of adulthood, all set against the backdrop of a sunny, sex-filled roadtrip. This is undoubtedly one of the best films of the 21st century so far. – Adam Chitwood

13th

Image via Netflix

Director: Ava DuVernay

Writers: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay follows up her acclaimed film Selma with a searing documentary that looks at the mass incarceration of minorities following the passage of the 13th amendment. As the documentary points out, it’s not just ingrained cultural racism that results in the widespread incarceration of African-Americans and other minorities.  There’s a financial incentive as well, and it’s good business to lock people up.  13th systematically goes through the decades following the passage of the 13th amendment to show how black people were targeted by the media, by the government, and by businesses to create a new form of slavery.  It is a movie that will infuriate you, depress you, and hopefully spur you to action against a system that done egregious harm to our fellow citizens.  – Matt Goldberg

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Image via Sony

Directors: Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Writers: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman

Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber

“Anyone can wear the mask.” That’s the theme of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Versewhich makes it not just one of the most inspiring superhero movies ever made, but also one of the most important. While the film’s protagonist is Miles Morales, a mixed race high school student living in New York City who gets bit by a spider and gains superpowers, the movie expands the world into a “multi-verse” as various Spider-People from other dimensions come into Miles’ life. Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir all have different backgrounds and motivations, but they all rose above adversity to become the hero their world needed. The crux of the film is the relationship between Miles, who’s not yet ready to lead, and an alternate universe Peter Parker, who’s going through a mid-life crisis and reluctantly mentors the young, new Spidey. It’s an endearing, hilarious, and touching the relationship, and the film is packed with themes of friendship, heroism, and family that make it a tremendously positive viewing experience for youngsters. – Adam Chitwood

Jurassic Park

Image via Universal

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, B.D. Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, and Wayne Knight

If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park, A. What’s your deal? and B. You are in for a treat. Simply put, this is one of Steven Spielberg’s masterpieces. It’s a story of man’s hubris gone wrong—a tale as old as time, but with dinosaurs. Spielberg’s handle on tone and tension here is masterful, as the film opens by previewing the terror to come before settling the audience into the comfort and wonder of Jurassic Park. Then all hell breaks loose, Laura Dern is a badass, and Jeff Goldblum is unforgettably strange. It’s one of those great films that’s not only perfect, it’s highly rewatchable. So whether it’s your first time or your 50th, you’re guaranteed to enjoy it. – Adam Chitwood

Midnight Special

Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, and Jaeden Martell

If you’re into grounded, indie sci-fi movies you’ll want to check out Midnight Special. This underrated 2016 film takes place in Texas and follows a father (Michael Shannon) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Jaeden Martell) when it turns out his son has special powers. Chased down by both the government and a cult, the bond between father and son is tested in various ways. Adam Driver plays an NSA communications analyst who has his own vested interest in the boy, and while this sounds like the plot of a superhero movie, Nichols approaches the material in an extremely realistic and grounded manner. It’s a Sundance movie with stunning performances and minimalist visual effects, putting a heavy focus on character over plot twists or giant set pieces. And Shannon gives a deeply soulful turn as the boy’s father. – Adam Chitwood

Wildlife

Image via IFC Films

Director: Paul Dano

Writers: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp

The 2018 directorial debut of actor Paul Dano is a handsomely crafted and emotionally overwhelming chronicle of a marriage falling apart, all seen through the eyes of the couple’s young boy. Based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford, Wildlife takes place in 1960 and follows a couple (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) and their teenage son as they move to Montana. Shortly after arriving, the father loses his job and is forced to take the only work he can – going off and fighting wildfires, leaving his wife and son behind to fend for themselves. Mulligan gives a quietly devastating performance as a single mother doing her best, and Gyllenhaal brings a seething intensity to the role of a man trying to hide his shame. Dano directs the whole thing with the care and confidence of a veteran auteur (his handle on shot composition is truly stunning), and the screenplay by Dano and Kazan is assured and poetic. This is a deeply emotional and mature family drama that proves Dano is the real-deal behind the camera, and it’s also lowkey one of the best films of the last few years. – Adam Chitwood

Pride and Prejudice

Image via Focus Features

Director: Joe Wright

Writer: Deborah Moggach

Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, and Judi Dench

The classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice has been adapted many, many, many times, but it’s entirely possible that Joe Wright’s 2005 film is the best ever. Keira Knightley leads the film as Elizabeth Bennet, a headstrong young woman who strikes up a hot-and-cold relationship with the enigmatic Mr. Darcy (played by Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen). The cinematography and production design are absolutely lush, and Dario Marianelli’s score is beautiful and vibrant, but it’s Wright’s actors that really make this thing soar and the chemistry between Knightley and Macfadyen is absolutely tremendous. – Adam Chitwood

Magic Mike

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Reid Carolin

Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey

While the prospect of a male stripper movie based on the real life story of Channing Tatum sounds like a recipe for disaster, in the hands of a master filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh, it’s a work of art. Magic Mike is immensely entertaining offering up some truly dazzling set pieces, but it’s also incredibly funny and genuine poignant. While Soderbergh certainly has an eye on giving folks a good time, at heart Magic Mike is a film about chasing the American Dream. It’s surprisingly dark in places, and Tatum is actually pretty terrific in the lead role here, offering up some of the complexity that has turned him into a truly talented actor. And, of course, there’s Matthew McConaughey in the first puzzle piece of his McConaissance, giving an Oscar-worthy turn as the charismatic Dallas, owner of the film’s central male strip club. Don’t let the subject matter fool you: Magic Mike is a true film for cinephiles. – Adam Chitwood

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Image via DreamWorks Animation

Director/Writer: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington

The best film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is also the most emotional one. The 2014 sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place five years after the events of the first film and finds Hiccup coming into contact with his long-lost mother (played by Cate Blanchett) and battling a madman (Djimon Hounsou) who wants to take over the world. Compassion and empathy are prominent themes in this “kids movie” that may or may not leave parents in puddles of tears by its end. It’s a testament to Dean DeBlois’s filmmaking skills (with an assist by cinematographer Roger Deakins) that this movie is as great as it is, and as a bonus you get a truly wonderful score by composer John Powell. – Adam Chitwood

Nightcrawler

Image via Open Road Films

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton

An utterly dark yet compelling thriller in the vein of Taxi Driver, the 2014 film Nightcrawler features one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performances ever. He plays an odd and hungrily ambitious freelance photographer named Lou who goes to grotesque lengths to capture exclusive footage of grisly crime scenes in Los Angeles. Riz Ahmed is heartbreaking as Lou’s assistant and Rene Russo gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the morning news director at a local station. If you’re into dark thrillers with standout performances, give this one a watch. – Adam Chitwood

Ocean's Twelve

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: George Nolfi

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, and Elliott Gould

Yes, really. When it was released, Ocean’s Twelve was not nearly as warmly received as its predecessor, but that’s because Soderbergh opted to try something entirely different. The plot is purposefully convoluted, and if you read Ocean’s Twelve’s story as a metaphor for how hard it is to make a good sequel, it is immensely more satisfying. The story mirrors Soderbergh’s task of following up a huge hit film with a movie that’s the same but different: Benedict (the studio) demands Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh and his cast) form once again to pay him back his money. Hilarity ensues, and the film never takes itself too seriously as the cast is all in on the joke. It’s divisive to be sure, but give the film another shot. It may surprise you. – Adam Chitwood

Ocean's Thirteen

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writers: Brian Koppelman and David Levien

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, and Elliott Gould

For everyone upset that Ocean’s Twelve was too much of a 180 from Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Thirteen is very much back in the original’s groove. The least-good Ocean’s movie isn’t a bad one — it’s still fun and flirty and has that cast you love. It just lacks the originality of the first two films. Al Pacino chews the scenery as a hotel magnate who stiffs Reuben in the worst way, spurring the gang to reunite to take him down on the eve of the opening of his new casino. The production design is spectacular, and at the end of the day it’s still a tremendously charming and funny movie. – Adam Chitwood

Spotlight

Image via Open Road Films

Director: Tom McCarthy

Writers: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, and John Slattery

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 2015, Spotlight is a tremendous achievement and a magnificent example of the tightrope walk many filmmakers must do when tackling touchy or controversial subject matter. In chronicling the Boston Globe’s investigation into systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic church, Spotlight never relishes in putting down the church itself, nor does it shy away from the horrible crimes perpetrated (and facilitated) by those in power. It’s an incredibly engaging and compelling story of good people trying to do a good thing, and all the challenges that come with standing up to a massive superpower. Moreover, the ensemble in this thing is one of the best in recent memory. Whether you’re a Best Picture completionist or not, Spotlight is well worth your time. – Adam Chitwood

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Image via Netflix

Director: David Dobkin

Writers: Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele

Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, and Demi Lovato

If you think Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is just another “dumb Will Ferrell comedy,” think again. One of 2020’s most pleasant surprises, this musical comedy is surprisingly sweet and genuinely emotional – don’t be surprised if you find yourself welling up with tears by the end. The story follows a pair of lifelong friends and musicians from Iceland who are unexpectedly thrust into the Eurovision Song Contest, which tests their talents and their relationship to one another. Ferrell is hilarious as always, but it’s Rachel McAdams who steals the show here and proves yet again she’s one of the best comedic talents working right now. Oh and the songs? They’re spectacular. – Adam Chitwood

Da 5 Bloods

Image via Netflix

Director: Spike Lee

Writers: Spike Lee, Kevin Wilmott, Danny Bilson, and Paul De Meo

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Jonathan Majors, and Chadwick Boseman

For his follow-up film after winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for BlacKkKlansman, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee decided to tackle the Vietnam War with Da 5 Bloods. The story is fairly straightforward, but the film is anything but. It follows four Vietnam War veterans who travel back to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen squad leader—as well as a pile of gold they left behind. But they soon find that the wounds they carry run deep, and Lee uses the film to examine issues of family, race, and American Exceptionalism in striking, graphic ways. It’s absolutely thrilling and Delroy Lindo gives a genuinely Oscar-worthy lead performance. – Adam Chitwood

Being John Malkovich

Image via USA Films

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, and John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is certainly one of the weirdest movies ever made, but I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it. From the mind of Charlie Kaufman, the film stars John Cusack as an unemployed puppeteer who finds work as a file clerk at an office building, where he discovers a door that lets anyone who enters control the mind of actor John Malkovich for a short period of time. The story snowballs from there and concerns love, ego, and power, and everyone involved gives an absolutely terrific performance. – Adam Chitwood

The Town

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Ben Affleck

Writers: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, and Aaron Stockard

Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Casey Affleck, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, and Blake Lively

Ben Affleck famously turned his career around with his 2007 directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, but he proved he wasn’t a one-trick pony with his excellent 2010 crime thriller The Town. The film follows four lifelong Boston friends who rob a bank, only for everything to nosedive from there. But Affleck injects a deep humanity into all of the characters that makes this a surprisingly empathetic saga, which also boasts a swell performance from Affleck (and of course Jeremy Renner, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work). And on a base level, this is just a really compelling and effective thriller. Those set pieces! – Adam Chitwood

Sleepless in Seattle

Image via TriStar Pictures

Director: Nora Ephron

Writers: Nora Ephron, David S. Ward, and Jeff Arch

Cast: Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Bill Pullman, Gaby Hoffman, Ross Malinger, and Rob Reiner

A classic romantic comedy if there ever was one, Sleepless in Seattle holds up tremendously well. The film stars Tom Hanks as a widower living in Seattle whose son calls into a radio show to detail his father’s romantic struggles. Meg Ryan plays a Baltimore reporter who is moved to tears by the radio show, and sets about seeking out this mystery man. Nora Ephron directs this story perfectly, with its romantic center, whip-smart sense of humor, and feel-good ending. Grab a cozy blanket and cuddle up with this one. – Adam Chitwood

Stardust

Image via Paramount Pictures

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman

Cast: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfieffer, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Ian McKellan, Ben Barnes, Henry Cavill, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett, Mark Strong, Ricky Gervais

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name, Stardust is a whimsical, magical adventure through a magical land where stars crash to earth in human form, space pirates navigate the air, and the ghosts of the monarchy are entertained by fratricide. Long before he was Daredevil Charlie Cox charmed as Tristan Thorn, a young man who journeys to a magical land to capture a fallen star (Claire Danes) and finds adventure and romance lying beyond the wall he was told to never cross. Stardust is playful and fun to boot, with a vibrant performance from Michelle Pfieffer as a badass witch on the quest for immortality. All in all, Stardust has everything you want from a fantasy adventure, from wild imagination to sweeping romance to Robert De Niro as a space pirate. — Haleigh Foutch

Inside Man

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: Russell Gewirtz

Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

While Spike Lee has made a number of extraordinary films over the course of his career, his 2006 crime thriller Inside Man might still be his most purely entertaining feature. The story follows a bank heist from the perspective of both the perpetrators and the authorities outside, which is really nothing new. But Lee elevates the clichéd plot device through compelling storytelling devices and a series of twists and turns that keep the viewer guessing. Denzel Washington is dependably solid as the protagonist cop, but Clive Owen‘s bank robber gets some serious intrigue. This is a popcorn flick by way of Spike Lee, which in and of itself should be reason enough to add this to your queue. – Adam Chitwood

Zodiac

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: David Fincher

Writer: James Vanderbilt

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, and John Carroll Lynch

In the mood for an impeccably crafted drama from a master filmmaker? Look no further than Zodiac, David Fincher’s 2007 chronicle of the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in 1960s and 70s San Francisco. Jake Gyllenhaal anchors a phenomenal ensemble as a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who grows obsessed with figuring out the identity of the serial killer, to the detriment of pretty much everything else in his life. Buoyed by terrific performances from the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards as well as Fincher’s knack for details, the film is an absorbing, darkly funny, and at times terrifying watch that stands as one of Fincher’s best. – Adam Chitwood

Baby Mama

Image via Universal Studios

Director/Writer: Michael McCullers

Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin

While the 2008 comedy Baby Mama doesn’t entirely deliver on everything you’d hope from a Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy (and the actresses have admitted the film is a tad mean-spirited when it pits their characters against one another), it’s still good for a number of laughs and is largely a joyful affair. Fey plays a single woman who decides to have a child via surrogate, with Poehler playing her irresponsible and obnoxious surrogate. As it turns out, however, Poehler’s character isn’t actually pregnant and has to keep the rouse going. – Adam Chitwood

Uncut Gems

Image via A24

Directors: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie

Writers: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, and Ronald Bronstein

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, and Eric Bogosian

The must-see thriller Uncut Gems contains quite possibly the best performance of Adam Sandler’s career. He plays a Jewish jeweler and gambling addict in New York City’s Diamond District who much track down an expensive gem he purchased in order to pay off his debts. The film chronicles his journey pretty much minute-by-minute, with directors Josh Safdie and Benny Safide maintaining a masterful sense of tension throughout. Seriously, from pretty much the first scene to the last this is a nail-biting thriller that will have your stomach in knots but your brain riveted. You’ve been warned. – Adam Chitwood

Cloud Atlas

Image via Warner Bros.

Directors/Writers: Lana Wachowski, Lily Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer

Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Aarcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant

One of the most ambitious movies of the last decade and, yes, also a little divisive, Cloud Atlas is something that has to be seen to be believed. But fair warning, this movie is not for everyone. This nearly three-hour epic traverses time and space, telling six stories set in different time periods and locations but featuring a similar company of actors. It’s no surprise this film is the brainchild of The Matrix directors Lana and Lily Wachowski, and they directed this wildly ambitious adaptation alongside Tom Tykwer. The result is a sci-fi epic, historical drama, tragic romance, crime thriller, and comedic farce all rolled into one, and with a cast that includes Tom HanksHalle Berry, and Hugh Grant, there is always something interesting happening onscreen. It’s a weird movie to be sure, with a structure that’s more in line with a symphony rather than a traditional film, but if you give yourself over to the experience you may just find yourself moved in surprising ways. – Adam Chitwood

Django Unchained

Image via The Weinstein Company

Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Remar, and Don Johnson

Quentin Tarantino’s most successful film to date, box office-wise, is still his 2012 Western Django Unchained. The main thrust of the story follows a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who is set free by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), with whom he teams to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a dangerous plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). At 165 minutes in length this film is a genuine epic, but it’s compelling and entertaining at every turn, and thanks to performances by Foxx and Washington it’s also one of Tarantino’s most emotional films. Waltz won an Oscar for his “supporting” performance, but DiCaprio delivers a truly chilling villainous performance here as Calvin Candie. – Adam Chitwood

The Social Network

Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara, and Rashida Jones

The Social Network is a masterpiece. It also happens to be one of the most rewatchable movies ever made. Rarely has a director and screenwriter pairing been so better matched, with David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin elevating each other’s best instincts and dampening each other’s worst. This cool, incisive drama is far more than a “Facebook” movie, as it uses the dramatic “origin story” of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg to tell a much larger story about what happens when the people running the world’s largest companies are barely out of college. There’s an almost mythic quality to the rise and fall of Zuckerberg here—the “was it worth it in the end?” philosophical questions. But this movie also just absolutely slaps/rules/slays so hard. The Oscar-winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is an all-timer, the performances are phenomenal, the script is perfect, and the direction is absolutely masterful. Watch this movie! – Adam Chitwood

Total Recall

Image via Tristar Pictures

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Ronal Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, and Gary Goldman

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox

If you’re in the mood for a great throwback 80s/90s sci-fi actioner, you cannot possibly go wrong with Total Recall. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of espionage involving a colony on Mars. It’s crazy and weird and funny and thrilling, and Schwarzenegger is perfectly cast. Get your ass to Mars! – Adam Chitwood

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Jake Kasdan

Writers: Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan

Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig, and Jonah Hill

Much like Hot Rod or Step Brothers, the 2007 comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a film that didn’t hit big when it hit theaters, but grew a passionate cult following in the ensuing years. And for good reason, because it’s one of the funniest movies of the 21st century so far. The movie is ostensibly a send-up of cradle-to-grave music biopics like Walk the Line and Ray as it follows the trajectory of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) from an aspiring musician in Alabama to a worldwide superstar. But the film goes beyond parody to really delve into the history of music, as Dewey’s story incorporates real-life stories from legends like The Beach Boys and The Beatles and descends into absolute chaos. What’s more, the songs are genuinely catchy and funny as hell. If you missed this one in theaters, now’s your chance to catch up with this deliriously funny comedy. – Adam Chitwood

District 9

Image via Sony Pictures

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Writers: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchel

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, and Vanessa Haywood

The 2009 sci-fi actioner District 9 remains one of the most strikingly original sci-fi films of the 21st century. The film’s style evolves over the course of the running time, and it begins in documentary fashion as it follows a South African bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) who has been tasked with relocating a settlement of extra-terrestrial refugees (it’s honestly not unlike The Office at the beginning). In the world of the story, a spacecraft crash-landed nearly 20 years prior, and the aliens have been kept inside a camp called District 9. Co-writer/director Neill Blomkamp crafts a brilliant allegory for xenophobia and social segregation, anchored by a character who’s essentially Michael Scott and/or David Brent. On top of that, the visual effects are tremendous. Humorous, heartbreaking, and patently unique, District 9 is a truly original sci-fi movie. – Adam Chitwood

The Florida Project

image via A24

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, and Caleb Landry Jones

The Florida Project is brilliant and human and it will absolutely break your heart. The film follows a six-year-old girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, just around the corner from DisneyWorld. In Moonee’s eyes, her days are filled with adventure as she makes the best out of living week-to-week in a motel with her single mother. But through the eyes of Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel’s manager, we see the abject poverty surrounding its tenants, and the loops they continue getting stuck in without any promise of upward mobility. Like Boyhood this story feels at once individualistic and universal, and Sean Baker’s docudrama-like filmmaking makes the events feel all too real. This is an essential watch. – Adam Chitwood

Goldeneye

Image via MGM and EON

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Isabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Judi Dench, and Joe Don Baker

One of the best James Bond films ever made came with a pretty significant retooling of the franchise to begin with. I’m talking about 1995’s GoldenEye, which was the first Bond movie to star Pierce Brosnan and found director Martin Campbell tackling a story that wrestles with the relevance of a spy like James Bond in a post-Cold War world. But on top of that fascinating thematic resonance, GoldenEye is also just a thrilling action movie full-stop. From the sexually charged fight with Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) to James Bond driving a freaking tank, this movie is a high-octane blast. – Adam Chitwood

The Gift

Image via STX Entertainment

Director/Writer: Joel Edgerton

Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton

If you’re looking for a great psychological thriller with a twist, plus one of Jason Bateman’s best performances, check out The Gift. Written and directed by Joel Edgerton, the film follows a married couple (Bateman and Rebecca Hall) who move to Los Angeles and are confronted by a man from Bateman’s character’s past, played by Edgerton. This man begins delivering strange gifts to their house and starts showing up unannounced, but there’s much more happening here beneath the surface. This is an excellent contained thriller with some top-notch performances that will keep you on the edge of your seat. – Adam Chitwood

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Image via Summit Entertainment

Director/Writer: Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack, and Paul Rudd

The Perks of Being a Wallflower—both the movie and the book—should be required consumption for every teen. Writer/director Stephen Chbosky adapts his own coming-of-age novel with this 2012 feature film about a teenager named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who struggles with depression and anxiety through his first year of high school, eventually finding companionship and support through a lovely group of new friends. I know this sounds like a million other “teen” movies out there, but trust me, this one is the goods. It doesn’t talk down to its characters, nor does it offer some adult’s version of what a “teen” is like. It feels absolutely true to life, and you’ll no doubt find plenty to connect to within. And maybe you’ll even find it cathartic too. Don’t sleep on this underrated gem. – Adam Chitwood

The Guest

Image via Picturehouse

Director: Adam Wingard

Writer: Simon Barrett

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Ethan Embry, and Lance Reddick

If you thought You’re Next was a breath of fresh air to the horror genre, might I suggest that film’s director/writer combo’s follow-up, a twist on the action-thriller genre called The Guest. One part Terminator and one part classic John Carpenter, the film stars Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens as a creepy, potentially sinister war veteran who shows up unexpectedly at the home of one of his fellow soldiers, who died in battle. The family can’t decide if the titular guest’s intentions are good, bad, or a little bit of a both, but as far as the audience is concerned, this is a wildly entertaining riff on classic tropes, with a cheeky finale that’ll leave you smiling. So if you’re in the mood for something thrilling, a little scary, and a lot of fun, look no further. – Adam Chitwood

Molly's Game

Image via STXfilms

Director/Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, and Bill Camp

If you’re in the mood for a great poker movie with a crackerjack script, look no further than Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game. Based on a true story, the film stars Jessica Chastain as a woman who became the target of an FBI investigation after the underground poker empire that she runs for Hollywood celebrities is exposed. While the script isn’t quite as tight as some of Sorkin’s other stuff, this movie is incredibly entertaining and Chastain gives a hell of a performance. – Adam Chitwood

Taxi Driver

Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Paul Schrader

Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, and Albert Brooks

One of the greatest and most influential films ever made, Taxi Driver is a downright masterpiece. The 1976 neo-noir follows a lonely veteran and cab driver named Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) searching for purpose. Disgusted with the increasing filth on the streets of New York City—as he sees it—Travis decides to take matters into his own hands and clean up the streets himself. The film chronicles Travis’ descent into increasingly violent behavior, and how one’s worldview can be so warped that they see themselves as a hero, when instead they’re downright villainous. This is a complicated movie with no easy answers and no black-and-white, as Scorsese examines the morally grey world we live in. Through tremendous shot composition, an unforgettable score by Bernard Hermann, and one of the best performances of all time from De Niro, Taxi Driver remains one of the most intriguing and effective anti-hero movies ever made. – Adam Chitwood

Drive

Image via FilmDistrict

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Hossein Amini

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaacs, and Albert Brooks

Drive may not be for everyone, and it’s certainly not the movie you think it is, but boy what a gorgeous and transfixing twist on a “thriller.” Ryan Gosling stars as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, but whose life gets complicated when he strikes up a relationship with his neighbor, played by Carey Mulligan. The film tackles issues of violence and masculinity, all while wrapped up in a semi-sweet romance story. It’s kind of like an uber-violent John Hughes movie in a way—surprising, hypnotic, and incredibly cool. – Adam Chitwood

Good Time

Image via A24

Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie

Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benny Safdie, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress

Are you looking for an atypical action flick? While Good Time, a 9000-mile-a-minute character study/thriller from idiosyncratic directors the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems) may not have many typical action set pieces like shoot-outs or car chases, Good Time operates at a fast-paced clip that bests the pace of many contemporary, more traditionally explicit “action films.” And when Robert Pattinson (delivering career-best work) runs and climbs and claws his way through the underworld streets of New York City to try and bust his brother (co-director Benny Safdie) out of jail after a robbery gone awry, your heart will nearly burst out of its rib cage it’s beating so fast. From its grimy, shot-on-film aesthetics,  its pulsating electro-influenced soundtrack, and its slow-burn realization that our protagonist is more of a monster than we thought imaginable (Pattinson’s scene with Barkhad Abdi is nigh on unbearable), Good Time is like no other movie out there. An indie action classic for the ages. – Greg Smith

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Image via United Artists

Director: Sergio Leone

Writers: Sergio Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni, Age & Scarpelli

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and the best of Sergio Leone’s The Man with No Name Trilogy. The plot is a race to uncover stolen gold with Blondie (Clint Eastwood), who knows the location of the grave, Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), who knows about the treasure, and Tuco (Eli Wallach), a scoundrel who only wants to keep Blondie alive because he knows the location of the treasure. It’s a sprawling epic of a spaghetti western that moves in a flash thanks to the electric direction, the compelling performances, Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score, and basically being a pinnacle of the genre. Don’t be put off by the long runtime; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly moves faster and with more power than films half its size. – Matt Goldberg

Just Friends

Image via New Line Cinema

Director: Roger Kumble

Writer: Adam Davis

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, and Chris Klein

Now that Ryan Reynolds is a bona fide action hero, let’s not forget the guy is also an incredibly talented comedic actor. Roger Kumble’s underrated romantic comedy Just Friends is a terrific showcase for Reynolds’ skills, as the dichotomy between his impossibly good looks and goofy comedic sensibility is put to good use as he plays a formerly chubby, sensitive-type who is now a trim, successful music producer. Anna Faris also turns in phenomenal work here as a play on a Britney Spears-esque pop star, and she and Reynolds have fantastic chemistry. The story is a pretty standard “home for the holidays” type deal—Reynolds’ character gets unexpectedly stranded in his hometown with Faris in tow, and is forced to confront his former BFF who is also the girl he was in love with in high school. But the whole thing is really just elevated to another comedic level courtesy of its A+ performances. Sneakily great? Chris Klein as a stereotypical “nice guy.” – Adam Chitwood

Crip Camp

Image via Netflix

Directors: Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht

The first Netflix documentary to hail from executive producers Michelle and Barack Obama was the Oscar-winning American Factory, and their second effort Crip Camp is just as great if not better. The film shines a light on the individuals who spent most of their adult lives fighting for basic human rights, with many having attended a camp for disabled tends called Camp Jened in the 1970s. Incredible archival footage from this camp opens the film, but we then follow the various people we’ve met as they spend the next few decades embroiled in activism to pass legislation to make the world accessible for those with disabilities. It’s a fight that never should have had to be fought, and it’s both inspiring and infuriating to see how tirelessly these individuals had to push and push and push to affect even the tiniest bit of change. – Adam Chitwood

Steve Jobs

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Jeff Daniels

One of the most underrated films of the 2010s, Steve Jobs is not the movie you think it is. Aaron Sorkin has crafted the anti-biopic—the encapsulation of a man’s life without actually showing the highlights of his life. The film is structured in three acts that play out in real time, focusing on three major Apple events. The first is the launch of the Macintosh computer, the second is the launch of NeXT, and the third is the launch of the iMac. Each act is like a mini-play, but the backstage goings-on reveal so much about Steve Jobs the man through Michael Fassbender’s phenomenal performance. It’s a thrillingly inventive way to make a “biopic,” and sadly many missed this one when it hit theaters. Entertaining, funny, and ultimately insightful, Steve Jobs is an underrated gem. – Adam Chitwood

Marriage Story

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta

Fair warning: Marriage Story will wreck you. But it’s also not just one of the best films of 2019, it’s the best film Noah Baumbach has ever made. The story chronicles the process of divorce from separation to finalization, with Adam Driver playing the successful theater director husband and Scarlett Johansson playing the successful actress wife. Complicating matters is the fact that the couple shares a child, but the brilliance of Baumbach’s film is that it tells the story from both points of view, so no matter which side you fall on in the end, you have deep empathy for both individuals. Driver and Johansson give career-best performances as Baumbach writes full-bodied, complex individuals—you know, like actual human beings. And with regards to the subject matter, Baumbach vividly showcases how the voices of the two individuals—and the love they previously shared—get lost in the actual process of divorcing. Heartbreaking and deeply human, Marriage Story is not to be missed. – Adam Chitwood

A Ghost Story

Image via A24

Director/Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Right off the bat we’ll say that A Ghost Story is not for everyone, but if you’re into the idea of an indie about the existentialism of life as told via ghost story, this might be for you. This 2017 drama finds Casey Affleck playing a man who dies but then comes back to haunt his wife (Rooney Mara) and her house. There are no big special effects, it’s simply Affleck wearing a white sheet and moping around. But the construction of the film, and the incredible score, drive home the largess of existence and the sorrow of loss. This one’s certainly unique. – Adam Chitwood

The Irishman

Image via Netflix

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci

Don’t be daunted by the 3.5-hour runtime on The Irishman. Martin Scorsese’s epic about the life of Teamster and hitman Frank Sheeran flies by as it morphs from entertaining mob story to a powerful mediation on life, age, and regret. Sheeran (Robert De Niro) tells us his life story of being friends with mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and how these friendships converged into deadly consequences with Frank stuck in the middle. The movie discards the glamour of films like Goodfellas and Casino and instead focuses on the slow decay of a man who has always seen himself as a good soldier when really all he has to offer is violence and selfishness. Far from “just another mob movie” from Scorsese, The Irishman is a powerful look at your twilight years and reflecting on the choices you’ve made in life. It’s among Scorsese’s best. – Matt Goldberg

Dolemite Is My Name

Image via Netflix

Director: Craig Brewer

Writers: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, and Titus Burgess

Not only does the Netflix original comedy film Dolemite Is My Name give us the best Eddie Murphy performance in years, it’s also just a tremendously entertaining movie about creative expression. The movie is based on the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who aimed to bring his hit standup character “Dolemite” to the masses by writing, producing, and starring in an extremely low-budget film. Not unlike Bowfinger, this movie is a hilarious behind-the-scenes story of one man’s creative passion coming to life against all odds. Murphy is explosive, Da’Vine Joy Randolph gives the definition of a breakthrough performance, and Wesley Snipes goes full To Wong Fu in an outrageous turn as the director of the Dolemite movie. This is an extremely entertaining comedy that is also incredibly inspiring. – Adam Chitwood

Pan's Labyrinth

Image via Picturehouse/Warner Bros Pictures

Director/Writer: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo, and Doug Jones

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro made waves with his 2001 Spanish-language drama The Devil’s Backbone and followed that up with studio films where he explored ideas of monstrosity—Blade II and Hellboy. But after those more commercial plays, del Toro returned to his roots for his 2006 masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. The story takes place five years after the Spanish Civil War in 1944 Spain and revolves around a young girl named Ofelia, whose stepfather is hunting down the Spanish Maquis who fight against the Francoist regime and whose pregnant mother is growing increasingly ill. Ofelia loses herself in a mythical world inhabited by creatures that are gorgeously alluring yet incredibly dangerous. Del Toro’s mix of fantasy, drama, and tragedy is magnificent, and the film was not only nominated for Best Foreign Language Film but also Best Original Screenplay. Its only wins, however, were for cinematography, art direction, and makeup. It lost Best Foreign Language Film to the German drama The Lives of Others. – Adam Chitwood

Miss Americana

Image via Netflix

Director: Lana Wilson

The Taylor Swift Netflix documentary Miss Americana is far from your typical music doc. It isn’t even really all that focused on Swift’s music so much as it is on Swift as a person. More specifically, it’s a film about Swift’s long journey to figuring out how not to care what people think about her, and how that manifests in her feminist awakening and decision to publicly express her political opinion—which we see occur in real-time. Some will ding the film for being too manicured, and in truth it’s impossible to tell just how heavy a hand Swift had in the tailoring of the documentary re: her self image. But the film’s true moments of insight are hard to ignore, and it’s fascinating to watch Swift come to terms with who she is as a human being while also being one of the most famous people on the planet. – Adam Chitwood

There Will Be Blood

Image via Paramount Pictures

Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. Connor

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best filmmakers in history and Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best actors in history, and the duo’s first ever collaboration resulted in one of the best films ever made. There Will Be Blood is a drama set at the turn of the 20th century that follows a ruthless oilman named Daniel Plainview, played by Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning performance. The film chronicles Daniel’s unending thirst for power at the sake of everything—including his young son H.W. and a neighborly preacher played by Paul Dano. This is a thematically rich, deep character-driven drama so you kind of have to be in the right mood for it. But if you are, then you’re in for a treat. – Adam Chitwood

A Single Man

Image via The Weinstein Company

Director: Tom Ford

Writers: Tom Ford and David Scearce

Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicolas Hoult, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin

Tom Ford is an icon of the fashion world, known for his impeccable eye and chic style, so it should come as no surprise that his directorial debut is an absolutely gorgeous and elegant piece of cinema with no spared attention to aesthetic detail. Both uplifting and incredibly depressing, A Single Man stars Colin Firth as a quiet middle-aged professor mourning the death of his partner when he decides to take his own life in the coming night, but edges towards his will to live when he reconnects with an old friend (Julianne Moore) and sparks up a romance with one of his students (Nicolas Hoult). Lush and emotionally dense, A Single Man packs in some powerhouse performances and announced Ford as filmmaker capable of translating his artistic eye onto the big screen. — Haleigh Foutch

The Invitation

Image via Drafthouse Films

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, and John Carroll Lynch 

If you’re in the mood for a horror movie that will really mess you up, but not in a super graphic way, then The Invitation is the film for you. The story begins simple enough: a man (Logan Marshall-Green) brings his girlfriend to a dinner party arranged by his ex-wife, which reunites a group of old friends. But soon things turn a bit… strange when the host (Tammy Blanchard) starts espousing about a group she and her new beau (Haunting of Hill House’s Michiel Huisman) have joined. This is a contained horror film that plays heavily on psychological and emotional trauma as opposed to jump scares or blood spurts, and it’s all the better for it. Director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) shows a masterful handle on tone and tension, and the story will keep you guessing right up until the jaw-dropping final shot. – Adam Chitwood

Haywire

Image via Relativity

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Lem Dobbs

Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas

If you’re in the mood for a lean, mean action-thriller, the 2011 feature Haywire is an underrated gem. The film stars Gina Carano as a black ops operative who is betrayed by her employers and targeted for assassination. On the run, she must gather intel and unravel a conspiracy before it’s too late. Come for the intrigue, stay for the absolutely brutal fight scene with Michael Fassbender. – Adam Chitwood

Let It Snow

Image via Netflix

Director: Luke Snellin

Writers: Laura Solon, Victoria Strouse, and Kay Cannon

Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Liv Hewson, Odeya Rush, Jacob Batalon, Kiernan Shipka, Joan Cusack

If you’re in the mood for some seasonal romance, Netflix delivered a bit of a Love Actually for the teen set with Let It Snow, a breezy holiday rom-com that finds a series of overlapping love stories on one fateful Christmas-season snow day. It’s a sweet film from top-to-tail, as interested in the dramas of teen friendship and domestic struggles as it the blossoming romances, and it’s filled with delightful performances from a knockout cast of young up-and-comers. A lot of the Netflix Christmas romances follow in the Hallmark channel vein, and absolutely no judgment if that’s your preferred thing, but for those who want an old-fashioned feel-good holiday romance, Let It Snow is just the ticket.– Haleigh Foutch

Mud

Image via Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, and Sam Shepard

Somewhat lost in the McConaissance between True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club was the 2013 indie Mud, which is an absolute gem. A twist on the coming-of-age story, the film takes place in Arkansas and follows a boy named Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend who stumble upon a man named Mud who’s been living in isolation on an island along the Mississippi River. Mud strikes up a companionship with the boys, all while Ellis’ family life appears to be crumbling. This one goes to some surprising and emotional places, but through it all filmmaker Jeff Nichols keeps a strong handle on tone and story. It’s an involving drama in the spirit of films like Stand By Me or The Sandlot, but quite a bit darker. – Adam Chitwood

Moonlight

Image via A24

Director: Barry Jenkins

Writers: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harries, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, and Andre Holland

The 2017 winner of the Best Picture Oscar, Moonlight is a stunning cinematic achievement that is equal parts coming-of-age story and coming-out story. A triptych in structure, the film is told in three sections each focusing on a different stage of the life of a young black man named Chiron. We see how the events of his life shaped him into the man he became, from his drug-addicted mother to his benevolent but criminal father figure to his first experiences coming to terms with his sexuality. Barry Jenkins’ direction is masterful and the performances astound, as you feel the three different actors who play Chiron all inhabit the same character—no easy feat. This is a phenomenal achievement from start to finish, and an incredibly moving story that is ultimately universal in nature: how do the experiences of our lives shape us into the adults we become? In addition to Best Picture, the film also won the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. – Adam Chitwood

Snowpiercer

Image via The Weinstein Company

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writer: Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Olivia Spencer, Ed Harris, Song Kang Ho

Bong Joon Ho’s (The Host) first English language film is a strange little beast. Set in an Ice Age post-apocalypse set off by failed climate control experiment, the entire film takes place within the confines of an ever-running global train that is home to the few survivors. A none too subtle spin on class warfare, Snowpiercer follows the desperate inhabitants of the lower-class posterior of the train, where they survive on disgusting gelatinous nutrition bars (and in truly dire times, something much worse), as they stage a violent coup against the privileged, indulgent elite at the front of the train. Chris Evans turns his Captain America charisma and command to its darkest incarnation as Curtis, the man at the forefront of the rebellion who leads the charge to take over the engine room. Along the way, Snowpiercer travels through the caste system of the train cars, each new carriage a bizarre and fully-rendered habitat of its own, and paints a microcosmic picture of a warped society entirely contained on a single train. It also packs in some visceral combat scenes and an all-timer performance from Tilda Swinton, and is all but guaranteed to become a cult classic. – Haleigh Foutch

About Time

Image via Universal Pictures

Director/Writer: Richard Curtis

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, and Margot Robbie

The 2013 film About Time is not just an absolute gem of a romantic comedy, it’s also one of the best time travel movies ever made. Oh yeah, and it’s a total tearjerker. Written and directed by Love, Actually filmmaker Richard Curtis, the film stars Domhnall Gleeson as a young man who learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family have the ability to time travel. This comes in handy when he misses his chance with a charismatic American girl (Rachel McAdams) and goes back to the night they first met to start their relationship off right. But what begins as a delightful, grounded, and romantic romp soon turns emotional, as About Time slowly reveals itself to be a gut-wrenching father-son story at heart. – Adam Chitwood

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Image via Disney Animation

Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

Writers: Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribbon

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, and Bill Hader

While Wreck-It Ralph delved into the world of arcade and classic gaming to tremendous results, the sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet turns its focus to an entirely different kind of beast: the internet. In the mold of successful Disney sequels, this film maintains the core characters that mean so much to audiences while evolving and challenging them to compelling results. Here, we see Ralph and Vanellope potentially going separate ways as they enter the massive world of the internet, and the film explores themes of toxic masculinity and online culture—though never in a preach-y manner. There’s plenty of time for fun as well, and while one could see the Star Wars and Disney Princess references as shameless cross-promotion, that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderfully delightful. Thankfully, this is a sequel with a story worth telling. – Adam Chitwood

Roma

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, and Marco Graf

ROMA is a masterpiece. Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, who won an Oscar for Gravity and has pushed the boundaries of cinema with films like Children of Men and even Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, digs deep into his soul for this new drama, which recreates his childhood as told through the eyes of a domestic worker named Cleo. As this middle class family living in 1970s Mexico City falls apart, Cuarón’s unique cinematography positions the viewer as an objective observer. That role becomes more and more heartbreaking as you, the viewer, become more emotionally invested in the lives of these individuals. Effective on any sized screen, ROMA is Netflix’s best original film to date. – Adam Chitwood

The Indiana Jones Trilogy

Image via Paramount Pictures

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, Jeffrey Boam, and David Koepp

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Jonathan Ke Quan, and Sean Connery

Yes, we said trilogy, even though all four Indiana Jones movies are currently on Netflix—watch or revisit Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at your own risk. But Steven Spielberg’s wonderfully adventurous original trilogy holds up remarkably well. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best films ever made, with Harrison Ford solidifying himself as a screen icon in the role of a very affable (and super good-looking) archaeologist. Temple of Doom gets dark and weird, but remains a fascinating and fun film. And Last Crusade is one of the best entries in the “Spielberg makes movies about his father” genre. You can’t go wrong with any of these three. – Adam Chitwood

High Flying Bird

Image via Netflix

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Tarell Alvin McCraney

Cast: Andre Holland, Zazie Beets, Melvin Gregg, Sonja Sohn, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan, and Bill Duke

What do you get when you combine Oscar-winning Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney with genius filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and an A-list cast? A must-see movie. High Flying Bird is a thrilling, delightful drama set in the world of sports that takes place over the course of one 48-hour period as a sports agent (Holland) attempts to find a way to end a basketball lockout that has himself (and many players) hurting for cash. Soderbergh—whose talents range from the glitz and glam of Ocean’s Eleven to the challenging drug trafficking ensemble Traffic—shot the entire movie on an iPhone, which adds another layer of urgency and intimacy to the proceedings. It’s mostly scenes of people talking in rooms, but the writing and performances are so good you’ll be glued to your screen for the entire runtime (which is a brisk 90 minutes). If you’re in the mood for something exciting, cerebral, and refreshing, give this one a go. – Adam Chitwood

Velvet Buzzsaw

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich

The best way to approach Dan Gilroy’s crazy Velvet Buzzsaw is to see it as a slasher film that takes place in the art world. Instead of a masked madman rampaging through a summer camp full of horny teenagers, it’s disturbing art rampaging through the art scene full of greedy profiteers. The plot centers on a group of art dealers who stumble upon the work of a deceased, criminally insane artist and find that his art could be highly profitable. However, proximity to the art causes other art to come alive and murder those who would seek to make money off art rather than engage with it. Gilroy’s targets a very clear, but it never feels like he’s preaching at the audience because Velvet Buzzsaw is so much fun. It’s a movie with art and commerce on its mind, but never at the expense of giving the audience a good time. – Matt Goldberg

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Image via Python Pictures

Directed by: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

Written by: Monty Python

Cast: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam

The 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not just one of the best comedies ever made, it’s one of the best films ever made full-stop. British comedy troupe Monty Python chronicle King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail in hilariously silly fashion, throwing in some creatively inspired imagery and swell production value for good measure. This was Monty Python’s second feature ever after gaining popularity for their TV show, but unlike their first film And Now for Something Completely Different, Holy Grail is one continuous narrative, not a string of sketches. While senses of humor and certainly the comedy genre as a whole have changed in the ensuing four decades, Holy Grail remains a landmark achievement and, above all, an incredibly funny movie all these years later. – Adam Chitwood

Knock Down the House

Image via Netflix

Director: Rachel Lears

While some may be quick to dismiss this documentary because its main figure is liberal politician Alexandra Ocasio-CortezRachel Lears’ film isn’t really concerned with the right-left divide. Instead, it’s about insurgent, grassroots politicians fighting the entrenched establishment power. Although Ocasio-Cortez’ story over-arches the whole film, Lears also takes time to follow other female politicians who are seeking to win their primary battles. The film is at its best when it shows the gritty, unglamorous work of campaigning and building a movement. If you’re fed up with business-as-usual politicians who have forgotten their constituents, Knock Down the House provides an inspiring rally cry. – Matt Goldberg

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Image via Netflix

Directors/Writers: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown, Jefferson Mays, Stephen Root, and Willie Watson

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs may not go down as an all-time great Coen Brothers movie, but it helps to crystalize their themes on death and morality as clearly as some of their best works. The anthology movie contains six stories of varying tone from the riotous “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” to the deeply melancholy “Meal Ticket”, but they all have something do with death, with the western genre used as a cohesive baseline. While folks will argue over which shorts are the best (I personally haven’t been able to shake “The Gal Who Got Rattled”), even the weakest Coens is better than the best work of other filmmakers. Even if you’re not a Coen Brothers die-hard, there’s still plenty to enjoy and ponder in their Netflix movie. – Matt Goldberg

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Image via Netflix

Director: Susan Johnson

Writer: Sofia Alvarez

Cast: Lana Condor, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Noah Centineo, Israel Broussard, and John Corbett 

If you’re looking for a fun, sweet, YA romance to brighten your day, you won’t do much better on Netflix than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Based off the novel by Jenny Han, the story follows Lara Jean (Lana Condor), a teenager whose worst nightmares are realized when five letters she wrote to her secret crushes are sent out without her knowledge. When she’s confronted by her old crush Peter (Noah Centineo), she’s afraid it could get in the way of her current crush Josh (Israel Broussard), so Lara Jean and Peter resolve to fake a relationship so they can get with who they really want to be with. Naturally, pretending to be together starts to create real feelings between the two. The film is a joy from start to finish, letting you relive a time when who “liked” you was the most important thing in the world, but without any of the trauma high school entails. – Matt Goldberg

De Palma

Image via Universal Pictures

Directors: Noah Baumabch and Jake Paltrow

De Palma is an absolute must-watch for any and all cinephiles, whether you’re a fan of Brian De Palma’s work or not. The film’s conceit is basically that filmmakers and De Palma fans Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow sit the legendary director in front of a camera and pepper him with a litany of questions that cover his entire career, for which De Palma is more than happy to be absolutely candid. Hear stories about the making of films like Scarface, Blow Out, and Untouchables, his friendship with filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and George Lucas (and subsequent jealousy when their careers went stratospheric and his didn’t), and the creative tensions on the set of Mission: Impossible. You’ll walk away wanting Baumbach and Paltrow to turn this into a series of documentaries about various filmmakers running through their entire filmographies. – Adam Chitwood

The Lobster

Image via A24

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw

If you’re in the mood for an extremely dark comedy—like almost sadistically dark—you have to see The Lobster. The 2015 film takes place in a dystopian future in which people are turned into animals if they don’t find a romantic partner. Colin Farrell plays a man whose wife leaves him for someone else, and now has 45 days to find a partner at a special facility or else he’ll be turned into an animal. It’s absurd, ridiculous, pitch black, and hilarious, and Farrell delivers a truly stellar performance. Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos hit the masses recently with The Favourite, but if you liked that film and want more, check out The Lobster. – Adam Chitwood

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Schwartzman.

Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s outstanding comic didn’t find much of an audience upon its release, but over the years it has grown into a cult classic. The movie follows Scott Pilgrim (Cera), a sweet if slightly selfish and misguided young man who falls for delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Winstead). He can only continue to date her if he defeats her seven evil exes. Scott’s comfortable with the video game framework, but the film is really about two people discovering they have to get over their own baggage if they’re going to find new love. Wright decorates the whole picture with video game tropes and fun little nods, but never loses sight of the core romantic story. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is funny, effervescent, and only gets better on repeat viewings. – Matt Goldberg

Private Life

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Tamara Jenkins

Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Desmin Borges, and Denis O’Hare

Tamara Jenkins’ new movie, Private Life, is a deft balancing act that plunges viewers into the frustration, anxiety, and hardship of a couple struggling to conceive, and yet it never loses sight of the humanity and even moments of odd comedy in their struggle. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play Rachel and Richard Biegler, a couple in their late 40s who are desperately trying to get pregnant, but despite putting themselves through the fertility grinder, are no closer to having a child. When they learn that their only chance is an egg donor, they decide they want it to be someone they know, and land upon their wayward niece (not blood-related) Sadie (Kayli Carter), a well-meaning if slightly flighty young woman in her mid-20s to be their donor. When she agrees, it ends up creating new, unforeseen complications, but never anything so outlandish that it breaks the movie’s powerful credibility.

Private Life is remarkable for a multitude of reasons, but it demands to be seen for Hahn’s remarkable performance. She has to play so many different levels and yet it’s not simply a case of “most acting” but fine-tuning her outrage and her heartache based on the scene. Sometimes she gets to lash out, but other times she has to bury her pain so that it doesn’t make other people uncomfortable. It’s easily one of the best performances of 2018. – Matt Goldberg

Swiss Army Man

Image via A24

Directors/Writers: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan

Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Swiss Army Man is undoubtedly one of the weirdest movies you’ll ever see, but there’s a charm to it that’s positively unmistakable. Paul Dano stars as a man marooned on an island who is just about to hang himself when he notices a body (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on shore. When he approaches the body, it begins farting uncontrollably, the force of which propels it forward. Dano’s character then rides the body through the waves, using the farts as a motor to propel himself off this island once and for all. This is the opening scene of the movie. And yet an endearing relationship blossoms between Dano and Radcliffe as the body begins to awaken, and Dano’s character teaches it how to be human. Backed by a killer soundtrack and brought to life with impressive (and ambitious) visuals, Swiss Army Man is guaranteed to be a viewing experience you’ll never forget. – Adam Chitwood

22 July

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr, Jonas Strand Gravli, Ola G. Furuseth, and Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen

In 2011, a far-right terrorist exploded a bomb at a government office in Norway and then made his way to a youth summer camp on an island, where he opened fire and killed 77 people in total. Bourne and United 93 filmmaker Paul Greengrass captures this terrorist attack in excruciating detail in the opening half hour of 22 July, but the film then moves on to the aftermath, where Greengrass contrasts the story of the terrorist—who was captured, affored an attorney, and sought to relay his political message—with that one one of his victims, a young boy who was shot in the head and faces a long road to recovery. The story is one of finding hope and courage in the face of absolute evil, and holds renewed relevance for 2018 as far-right groups are on the rise. This is a harrowing, emotional, and necessary film. – Adam Chitwood

A Serious Man

Image via Focus Features

Writers/Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard King, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Aaron Wolff, and Jessica McManus

Joel and Ethan Coen have rarely been as strange or as autobiographical as they were with their brilliant 2009 film, A Serious Man. The story takes place in the Midwest in 1967 and follows Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), who’s facing a serious crisis of faith when his wife abruptly decides to divorce him and a student tries to blackmail him into getting a better grade. Larry’s constant refrain of “I didn’t do anything!” is his fragile shield in a world where he thinks simply being a passive person is the same as being a good person. It’s a profound, thoughtful, and yet still funny look at the trials of being Jewish provides through a lens that only the Coens could craft. – Matt Goldberg

Set It Up

Image via Netflix

Director: Claire Scanlon

Writer: Katie Silberman

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, and Taye Diggs

If you’re looking for a charming romantic comedy, but don’t want to rewatch something from a previous decade for the umpteenth time, you should definitely give Claire Scanlon’s charming Set It Up a look. The plot follows two beleaguered assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who decided to set up their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, respectively) in order to just get some precious free time away from their demanding jobs. However, with all their scheming, they start to fall for each other. You can see the romcom beats coming from a mile away, but they’re done so well and so effectively that you won’t mind. Plus, the film sizzles thanks to the outstanding performances from the dazzling Deutch and Powell, who should be the streaming generation’s Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. – Matt Goldberg

The Ritual

Image via Netflix

Director: David Bruckner

Writer: Joe Barton

Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Horror movies are always a gamble–some are great, and deliver more than expected, while others simply tread well-worn territory. The Ritual falls into the former category, as director David Bruckner takes a story about male friendships and growing older (and further apart) and packages it into a terrifying, twisty “monster in the woods” horror film. The film revolves around four friends who go on a hiking trip in Sweden to honor their friend Rob, who was killed six months earlier during a convenience store robbery. But when they take a shortcut through some woods (terrible idea), they find themselves haunted by a malevolent creature. The performances really anchor this thing as a character-rich piece, specifically from lead Rafe Spall, and the creature design itself is absolutely unique (and frightening). The final result is a horror movie that’s downright scary, surprising, and honestly quite thoughtful. It’s the whole package. – Adam Chitwood

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Image via Netflix

Directed by: David Wain

Written by: John Aboud and Michael Colton

Cast: Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, Martin Mull, Emmy Rossum, Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, Matt Walsh, Neil Casey, Matt Lucas, Natasha Lyonne, Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Paul Scheer, and Jon Daly

If you’re a comedy nerd, A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a must-watch. The Netflix original film chronicles the origins of National Lampoon magazine through the eyes of co-founder Doug Kenney (Will Forte), a hilarious free spirit who would go on to co-write Animal House and Caddyshack before meeting an untimely end. Forte is the driving force of the film as it tracks the irreverent beginnings of National Lampoon, and the actor delivers a dynamic turn that is equal parts funny and sad. But Domhnall Gleeson nearly steals the show as his more dry partner Henry Beard, with cameos galore of folks playing famous actors from the time like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models filmmaker David Wain directs with a knowing eye, but takes the drama inherent in Kenney’s tragedy seriously. – Adam Chitwood

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, and Emma Thompson

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) isn’t Noah Baumbach’s first story about a dysfunctional family, but it’s his best one yet. The story follows the Meyerowitz family, specifically sons Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller) and their strained relationship with their egotistical father Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a retired art professor whose work as a sculptor never brought him the acclaim or recognition he felt he deserved.

The film is at turns deeply funny and incredibly heartbreaking as we see how Harold has emotionally damaged his sons in different ways. With Danny, he’s always harping on how great Matthew is while never acknowledging how much Danny does as a son and as a father, and with Matthew, he’s always distracted or demanding credit for making more of a commitment than he did with Danny. It’s insightful, smart, and features outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Sandler and Stiller, who turn in some of their best work while never leaving behind their comic gifts. Credit is also due to Hoffman who, at 80 years old, is still delivering magnificent performances that make you laugh and seethe in equal measure. – Matt Goldberg

Mudbound

Image via Netflix

Directed by: Dee Rees

Written by: Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke, and Jonathan Banks

One of the best films of 2017, Dee Rees’ southern epic is a sprawling, rapturous piece that looks at the lives of two families, one black and one white, in the 1940s. Although a lesser film would have only looked at one of these families or only one perspective, Mudbound brilliantly examines the hardscrabble life of a white family who owns the land, the black family who must work the land, and the conflicts and kinships that arise from its various members. Aside from the masterful craftsmanship and outstanding performances, Mudbound is a brilliant meditation on race and power that transcends its time and place. While the rural Mississippi setting gives the film its flavor, the inequality and power dynamic feels painfully relevant without ever coming off as preachy or obvious. It’s an absolutely masterpiece, and while it may not be a Netflix film that’s perfect for relaxing, it’s one you’ll be grateful you experienced. – Matt Goldberg

Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids

Image via Netflix

Director: Jonathan Demme

One might think a concert documentary on Netflix couldn’t be that exciting, and one would be wrong. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids is an absolute blast from start to finish, as filmmaker Jonathan Demme captures the final two performances of Justin Timberlake‘s 20/20 Experience tour. It’s abundantly clear that Timberlake is a consummate entertainer—Demme’s camera marvels at the performer’s showmanship, and the effect is downright alluring. He also takes time to really showcase the musicians and dancers performing alongside Timberlake, which brings an air of family to the proceedings. Really it’s just an all-around great time. Throw it on during a party or small get-together, or just sit down watch Timberlake do his thing. – Adam Chitwood

Long Shot

Image via Netflix

Director: Jacob LaMendola

The less you know about Jacob LaMendola’s 40-minute documentary Long Shot the better because its twists and turns are absolutely shocking even if its larger point should be burned into viewers memories by now. Overall, the documentary focuses on Juan Catalan, who was accused of a murder he didn’t commit and the lengths he had to go to in order to prove his innocence. While our justice system likes to tout that the accused are “innocent until proven guilty,” Long Shot shows in its brief runtime that the truth is just the opposite. Despite the flimsy evidence against Catalan, he had to be extraordinarily lucky to prove his innocence and that we have a system that incentivizes detectives and prosecutors simply to close cases rather than find justice. The brilliant thing about Long Shot is that it never has to come right out and say it. The case speaks volumes on its own. – Matt Goldberg

Beasts of No Nation

Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Kurt Egyiawan, Jude Akuwudike, Emmanuel “King Kong” Nii, and Adom Quaye

Netflix’s first major foray into original film territory was an ambitious awards play, as the streaming service acquired writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s passion project Beasts of No Nation after the film had been completed. The drama chronicles the journey of a young boy in an unnamed West African country who becomes a child soldier, and while the subject matter should tell you that this isn’t necessarily a “cheery” watch, it’s a tremendous and incredibly powerful piece of filmmaking. Young Abraham Attah is phenomenal as the young Agu, while Idris Elba delivers a terrifying performance as the charismatic leader Commandant. Fukunaga serves as his own cinematographer to hauntingly beautiful results, and the film culminates in a tough and thought-provoking conclusion. It’s one of the best films of 2015 that went criminally underseen, but it’s a terrific film that deserves to be experienced. – Adam Chitwood

Need More Recommendations?

Be sure to keep checking back as we’ll be continuing to update our recommendations for the must-see titles currently playing on Netflix each week. Happy viewing!

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