If you’re looking for the best movies to watch on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve put together an expertly curated selection of some of the most exciting, compelling, emotional and funny movies currently streaming on Netflix. While it can be daunting thumbing through the streamer’s catalogue to find out what to watch, we’ve taken the guesswork and mindless scrolling out of it. This post will be frequently updated with new recommendations, keeping you up to date with all the Netflix movies you should be prioritizing in your queue.
So peruse our list of the best movies on Netflix right now below, and happy watching!
The Mask of Zorro
Before “The Mummy” or “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” there was “The Mask of Zorro.” The 1998 film is based on the classic TV series of the same name, but director Martin Campbell injects this 19th century-set tale with enough intrigue, adventure and swashbuckling to keep a grin on your face from beginning to end. Anthony Hopkins stars as the original Zorro, who has been in prison for 20 years. When a hapless bandit played by Antonio Banderas breaks him out, he sets about training him in the ways of Zorro to help rescue his daughter, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, from the clutches of the man who first put him in prison.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise make for a winning combo in this smart, thrilling sci-fi story. The 2002 film takes place in the year 2054, where a controversial program is being piloted in Washington D.C. Three individuals who can see into the future are being used to arrest people who have not committed a crime yet, but who per these “precogs” are going to in the future. Cruise plays the cop in charge of the program who goes on the run when they predict that he will commit murder, so he sets about proving them wrong. This is a tremendously compelling and disturbing piece of science-fiction, gorgeously crafted by Spielberg.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This Western anthology from the Coen Brothers is a delightful romp that builds to a shockingly emotional conclusion. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is made up of six different stories set in the Old West, each featuring different characters. Themes of mortality, morality and justice are prevalent throughout “Buster Scruggs” just as they are through the Coens’ other films, but this time all against a wonderful, slightly exaggerated Western backdrop. The stellar cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson.
There Will Be Blood
If you’re in a cinephile mood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” is a downright masterpiece. The 2007 film is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel “Oil!” and stars Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning turn as Daniel Plainview, a prospector moving towards aggressive expansion during the 1900s oil boom. He runs into conflict with a preacher played by Paul Dano, and a battle of spirits plays out over the film’s epic 158-minute runtime. There’s a lot to chew on with this one, especially as it concludes with one of the most iconic final shots in cinematic history.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach 2019’s drama “Marriage Story” is, ultimately, a divorce story, but it’s so richly drawn and beautifully acted that you’ll find your own heart breaking as you watch the conscious uncoupling of a pair played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. This is far from a mean-spirited or even depressing film. Instead, while it does indeed chronicle the dissolution of a relationship (inspired by Baumbach’s own life) and how the divorce impacts their young son, “Marriage Story” smartly always keeps an eye on one very important fact: while these two individuals may be splitting up, that doesn’t mean the love they once had for each other wasn’t real. Driver and Johansson are terrific, and Laura Dern is a scene-stealer in her Oscar-winning supporting turn.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Trust me, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is tons of fun. This is Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthurian legend, and in that way it’s bombastic and stylized. But that’s part of what makes it kind of a blast. Charlie Hunnam plays the eponymous King Arthur, while Jude Law fills the role of the villainous Vortigern. This is not your average take on the King Arthur tale, but as soon as Eric Bana Yoshi-jumps a horse over a cliff to murder a wizard, you’ll either be hooked or will immediately know this movie is not for you. Extra points for composer Daniel Pemberton’s incredible original score.
21 Jump Street
A “21 Jump Street” movie has no business being this good, but that’s kind of what filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller do best – turn bad ideas into great movies. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play two young police officers who are sent undercover at a high school to try and trace the origins of a new drug on the market, but whereas their own high school experience saw Hill being bullied and Tatum as top dog, the duo find the social dynamics have changed since they were teenagers. The story puts a smart spin on your typical high school movie while delivering some truly inspired (and insane) comedy in the process.
If you’re into thrillers, you may dig “Uncut Gems” – but fair warning, this movie will stress you the heck out. From filmmakers The Safdie Brothers, the story follows a jewler and gambling addict played by Adam Sandler as he tries to retrieve an expensive gem in order to pay off his debts. The film plays out in semi-real time, as the Safdies put the viewer right in the middle of Sandler’s film-long panic attack. This is absolutely one of Sandler’s best performances.
Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s groundbreaking 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” is sadly still relevant today, but the film also holds up as a stone cold masterpiece. The story is set on a hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighborhood where racial tensions rise between the Italian-American owners of a pizzeria and the African-American residents of the neighborhood. Comedy is well placed as the film builds to a tragic and violent finale that speaks to racial relations in America.
2015’s “Steve Jobs” never got the respect it deserved, but now that it’s on Netflix it’s the perfect time to catch up with this underrated gem. The crackerjack screenplay by Aaron Sorkin captures the essence of the Apple founder in three distinct acts – the story plays out in three different time periods and follows backstage events just before the launch of three different products, the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1986, and the MacBook in 1998. Michael Fassbender is stunning not only in his performance, but his delivery of a mountain of Sorkin dialogue as the film chronicles the conflicting truths of Steve Jobs the man: a genius, a jackass, a fighter, a futurist and a short-sighted revenge-seeker. Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg deliver excellent supporting performances, while director Danny Boyle captures each section in a distinct visual fashion (Act 1 in 16mm, Act 2 in 35mm and Act 3 in digital).
Addams Family Values
Just because Spooky Season is over doesn’t mean you can’t still watch and enjoy “Addams Family Values,” one of the best sequels ever made. This 1993 follow-up to 1991’s “The Addams Family” finds the creepy and kooky family tangling with a serial killer (played by Joan Cusack) who marries their beloved Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and threatens to tear the family apart. Meanwhile, children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are sent to a chipper summer camp where they absolutely do not fit in. This one is a laugh riot.
Brad Pitt gives one of his best performances in the 2011 drama “Moneyball,” and you don’t need to know a thing about baseball to enjoy this film. Directed by Bennett Miller and written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball” charts former MLB flameout Billy Beane (Pitt) who’s now general manager of the Oakland Atheltics and recruits a statistician with zero baseball experience (played by Jonah Hill in an Oscar-nominated performance) to help him shake up the team. The film is based on a true and controversial story, and while the sports angle is interesting, Pitt’s turn as a man filled with regret and shame hits you right in the gut.
One of the more inventive horror films of the last decade, 2014’s “It Follows” is all the more impressive considering the supernatural presence at the heart of the movie isn’t actually seen onscreen. It goes like this – if you have it, it follows you everywhere until you pass it on to another person through a sexual encounter. Then it’s their problem. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell crafts a terrifying and patient horror film, anchored by a swell performance from Maika Monroe as the latest victim of “it” who is trying to figure out how to shake this supernatural follower.
Buddy comedies are a dime a dozen, but 1988’s “Midnight Run” is one of the best ever made. Robert De Niro plays a bounty hunter who captures an accountant accused of embezzling a huge sum of money (played by Charles Grodin). But returning the bounty isn’t that simple, and the film follows the misadventures of this mismatched couple. De Niro and Grodin make for a perfect comedic pairing, and director Martin Brest brings an action flair to the proceedings.
The Sparks Brothers
You don’t need to know anything about the band Sparks to find “The Sparks Brothers” a tremendously entertaining documentary. This marks the first documentary feature from “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver” filmmaker Edgar Wright, whose passion for Sparks – “your favorite band’s favorite band” as they’re described – bleeds onto the screen. Through interviews with the two Sparks brothers and a number of celebrity fans, as well as archival footage, the film takes a trip through the unique and genuinely stunning five decade (and counting) career. If you like music documentaries, check this one out.
As Good As It Gets
James L. Brooks’ 1997 film “As Good As It Gets” is the most recent movie to win both the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars in the same year, and Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt’s leading performances hold up well. This romantic comedy revolves around an OCD and highly offensive novelist (played by Nicholson) who crosses paths with a single mother with an ill child (played by Hunt) who has no patience for his rudeness. This is the kind of plot-lite, character-rich story with which Brooks has excelled in the past (see: “Broadcast News” and “Terms of Endearment”).
David Fincher’s 2007 masterpiece “Zodiac” is ostensibly about the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in the Bay Area in the 1960s/70s, but it’s actually a movie about obsession. Jake Gyllenhaal plays cartoonist Robert Graysmith who closely follows the Zodiac case and becomes convinced he can crack it. Fincher keeps a master’s handle on tone and pacing as the film has some truly terrifying moments and delivers on the “hunt for a serial killer” aspect while also serving up a thematic meal. Gyllenhaal is terrific, and he’s flanked by a phenomenal ensemble cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny and Brian Cox.
Coming-of-age movies are a dime a dozen, but “Lady Bird” stands among the best of the best. Writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film is a triumph of storytelling as it chronicles the journey of a smart high school senior (played by Saoirse Ronan) who struggles through various strained relationships as she prepares to go to college. Set in Sacramento, the film draws from Gerwig’s youth as it captures a wickedly relatable teen story that traverses the love, heartbreak and loss that come with growing up. The movie scored five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Ronan.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can enjoy, the 2021 Netflix original “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is an emotional crowd-pleaser that’s as funny as it is inventive. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film follows a family going on a cross-country road trip to send their eldest daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to college, where she hopes to learn how to become a filmmaker. The family isn’t on the best terms when the road trip begins, which makes things even trickier when a robot uprising occurs, leaving the dysfunctional Mitchells as humanity’s last hope. This is a hilarious, colorful and heartfelt story about the importance of communication.
Netflix has a wide variety of documentaries to choose from, but Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film “13th” is a must-watch. The doc delves into mass incarceration in the United States, and how race and injustice intersect with the issue, through the prism of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolishes slavery except as punishment for a crime. Through a number of interviews, DuVernay examines why a disproportionate number of Black people are incarcerated in the U.S., and how the current justice system perpetuates this injustice.
Guillermo del Toro’s masterful “Pan’s Labyrinth” blends fantasy with reality in a compelling and thought-provoking way. Written and directed by del Toro, the story takes place in 1944 Spain, five years after the Spanish Civil War. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl who vacillates between a mystical and dangerous fantasy world she discovers on her property, and the real world in which her stepfather hunts down those who fight against his regime. It is a brutal and beautiful tale of fascism that perfectly blends the metaphorical with the literal.
If you’re in for a fright, James Wan’s 2013 horror hit “The Conjuring” is one of the scariest movies in years. The film is based on the real-life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and finds the two (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) called to a Rhode Island farmhouse where strange happenings point to a supernatural presence. The jump-scares in this one are above and beyond anything else in the entire “Conjuring” franchise.
The animation studio LAIKA has made a habit out of crafting gorgeous and heartfelt stop-motion animation films, and 2012’s “ParaNorman” might just be its best. This spook-tacular supernatural comedy follows a kid named Norman who has the ability to communicate with the dead – which just so happens to come in handy when his sleepy town is besieged by zombies as a result of a witch’s curse. There’s a wonderful “Goonies” vibe to the proceedings, but what sets this film apart is how it builds to a surprising and emotional conclusion that carries with it a vital message for kids everywhere.
One of the great things about Netflix is how it has a little bit of something for everyone, and in that vein, the YA-skewing “Enola Holmes” is a delight for the teenaged crowd (and beyond). Based on the young adult series of the same name by author Nancy Springer, the film stars Millie Bobby Brown as the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola leaves the safety of her home compound and ventures into London to try and solve this mystery. Along the way, however, Enola learns that her mother kept many secrets of her own. This is a rollicking mystery-adventure that’s also a sweet and substantial coming-of-age story, all wrapped up in a gorgeous 19th century Victorian package.
Set It Up
If you’re into romantic comedies, you simply must check out “Set It Up.” This Netflix original is a throwback in the best way, as Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have that Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks chemistry in a story about friends turning into lovers. They play overworked assistants to demanding bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) and hatch a plan to set their bosses up in an effort to earn more free time themselves. But their scheming puts them in frequent close contact, during which sparks fly.
Be prepared to take some bathroom breaks, because “Titanic” is long. But it’s a modern classic for a reason, and the film still holds up. Writer/director James Cameron’s epic tells the story of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 as told through the eyes of two strangers who meet on board: a wealthy 17-year-old woman (Kate Winslet) who’s due to marry someone she doesn’t love, and a poor young artist named Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) who won a third-class ticket on the ship during a poker game. The film runs over three hours in length but is thrilling and compelling throughout, serving as a sweeping romance and a tragic disaster movie all in one. “Titanic” won a historic 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Director.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before Taika Waititi took audiences by storm with “Thor: Ragnarok” and won an Oscar with “Jojo Rabbit,” he crafted a wonderfully whimsical comedy called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” The film stars Julian Dennison as a troubled youth who goes on the run with a cantankerous man (played by Sam Neill) when both are being hunted through a remote part of Australia. The film is packed with Waititi’s signature sense of humor and unique style, and Dennison and Neill make for one heck of a dynamic duo.
2013’s “About Time” may look like a typical rom-com, but fair warning: this movie will make you ugly cry. From writer/director Richard Curtis (“Love, Actually”), the film stars Domhnall Gleeson as a man who learns from his father (Bill Nighy) on his 21st birthday that the men in his family have the ability to time travel. This both complicates and accelerates a relationship he strikes up with a young woman (played by Rachel McAdams), but as the film goes on, it slowly reveals itself to be a heartbreaking father-son story, as the man’s father learns he doesn’t have much time left to live.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
The Netflix original comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is not just an incredibly funny film, it’s a surprisingly emotional one too. Based on an original idea by Will Ferrell, the “Elf” actor stars as one half of an Icelandic duo alongside Rachel McAdams, both of whom are thrust into the spotlight when they’re unexpectedly selected to compete in the international singing competition Eurovision. The film is packed with some genuinely great songs, and a sweet story about staying true to your roots in the face of immense growth.
Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic “Gladiator” took the Oscars by storm, winning Best Picture and Best Actor among others, and it still holds up as a tremendously exciting historical drama. Set in 180 AD, Russell Crowe stars as a Hispano-Roman general who is betrayed and forced into hiding following the murder of his family. He finds himself conscripted to become a gladiator, fighting to the death for the amusement of audiences, and eventually makes his way back to Rome where he comes face to face with the emperor who betrayed him. Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed and Djimon Hounsou round out a terrific ensemble cast.
The Fear Street Trilogy
Everyone loves a good scare, but the “Fear Street” trilogy gives you three times the thrills for the price of one overarching story. These three interconnected films trace the origins of a witch’s curse on a small town, covering events in 1994 in the “Scream”-inspired first film, then heading back to 1978 for the summer camp slasher sequel, before concluding in the year 1666 for the third and final feature that reveals the origin story of the Shadyside witch. Colorful, fun and genuinely scary, the “Fear Street” trilogy tells a truly epic horror story.
The Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is full of surprises. While the film begins by chronicling Swift’s career, complete with the ups and downs it encompassed, it soon morphs into the origin story of a feminist as Swift begins to speak out on socio-political issues important to her. It’s a fascinating window into the management of fame, as some around her caution against making any kinds of political statements for fear of alienating her fanbase. Swift is honest throughout – or as honest as a documentary like this can be – and the film doesn’t shy away from tough moments like Kanye West infamously interrupting her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
The most successful film of his career thus far, “Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino through and through. This original Western is set just before the official outbreak of the Civil War and stars Jamie Foxx as Django, an escaped slave who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz in an Oscar-winning role) to rescue his kidnapped wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). This is a Western epic as only Tarantino can tell it, complete with gratuitous violence and a darkly humorous streak running throughout, all while the film doesn’t shy away from laying bare the horrors of slavery.
Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour-and-40-minute gangster epic “The Irishman” is best viewed in one sitting – trust me. The brilliance of the film is in its construction, as Scorsese charts the career of a hitman for the mob from the 1950s up to the present day. But unlike the bombast of “Goodfellas,” this is a film where regret and grief hang over nearly every frame, subtly building until the mournful third act hits you like a ton of bricks. Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran spends his entire life killing people, and what does it all add up to? Scorsese gets downright philosophical with questions of morality and mortality, crafting a self-reflexive film about what it means to come to the end of your life and look back on what you’ve done, why you did it and whether it was all worth it in the end.
Before director Bong Joon Ho made Oscar history with “Parasite,” he tackled class systems in the sci-fi dystopian thriller “Snowpiercer.” The film takes place after an attempt to stop global warming descended the planet into an uninhabitable ice age, and the last survivors live on a train that circles the globe. The train is divided into sections, with the highest-class passengers in the front and the lowest-class ones at the back. Chris Evans plays a man living at the back of the train who helps lead an uprising that finds these “lower class” citizens taking over the train one car at a time.
Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a great comedic talent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his best dramatic acting chops thus far are exemplified in the 2013 film “Rush.” Directed by Ron Howard, this biographical sports drama stars Hemsworth as British Formula 1 driver James Hunt and chronicles his 1970s rivalry with Austrian driver Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl). The racing scenes are absolutely thrilling, and the story lays bare these drivers’ determination while also delving into what drives each of them to compete.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
One of the best animated film series in recent memory is the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy, and while Netflix only has the second movie available to stream, it’s well worth your time regardless of whether you’re familiar with the franchise or not. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” picks up five years after the young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has convinced his Viking brethren to make peace with dragons instead of fear them, and the story finds Hiccup warding off a gang of dragon trappers while stumbling across his long-lost mother. As with every film in this series, “HTTYD 2” is full of emotion and compassion – make sure tissues are handy.
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror movie, but it’s a great watch for Spooky Season (or any time of year) regardless. Guillermo del Toro’s original story is a Gothic romance through and through, as Mia Wasikowska stars as a budding author living in 1900s New York who marries a kind yet mysterious man (Tom Hiddleston) and then moves into the decrepit mansion he shares with his sister (Jessica Chastain). When she arrives at the mansion, however, Wasikowska’s character discovers it’s full of secrets and ghosts. While the film is creepy, it’s not a full-on scare-fest – nor is it trying to be one. This is a sorrowful, ghastly story of love and what happens when our past won’t let go.
One of the funniest movies of the 21st century so far, “Step Brothers” is juvenile and brilliant in equal measure. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play two grown men still living with their single parents who are forced to live together as step brothers when their parents get married. What begins as a rivalry soon turns into camaraderie as these two struggle through arrested development. Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins co-star.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee is not known for making bland films, and indeed his 2020 Vietnam veterans drama “Da 5 Bloods” is confrontational in the best way. The story revolves around four aging Vietnam War veterans who return to the Southeast Asian country to search for the remains of their fallen leader — and also a trove of buried treasure. Along the way they confront their own fears and differences, as Lee’s film delves into how America left an entire generation of soldiers behind.
Netflix is host to a ton of great documentaries, including “Crip Camp.” This Oscar-nominated 2020 film begins by showcasing archival footage from a camp in the 1970s that was created for teens with disabilities, before then following various individuals as they fought for disability rights. It’s a moving portrait of activism that shows just how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we have left to go.