UPDATE: Best picture Oscar-nominated Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma rightfully earns a place on our list of the best movies on Netflix UK!
If you are looking for the best movies on Netflix UK, then you have come to the right place. This is a constantly updated list that features the best Netflix movies available in the UK right now.
may be best known for its TV output but there are many movies on the platform that are worth a watch. As you will see from our extensive list, there are plenty of movies on Netflix to devour once you have got all that TV binge-watching out of your system.
Our best Netflix movies UK list has been broken up into categories to make it easier for you to navigate. To make things neat and tidy we have chosen around 10 movies to watch in each category – with further recommendations listed at the end of the category.
In all there’s over 100 movies to choose from here, all picked because they are, simply, the best films on Netflix to watch right now.
From comedy to indie, to horror and kids, there’s a movie category for everyone.
Keep checking back, too. Unlike its TV output that seems to stay on Netflix for longer, its movies tend to appear and disappear quite fast. We keep this best Netflix movies list updated as often as we can, so please bookmark us. Enjoy!
- If you are a TV fan, then check out our best shows on Netflix feature.
Shane Black is never someone to play the Hollywood game. Starting off as a hotshot writer – he penned Lethal Weapon at a ridiculously young age – he went into obscurity, only to come back with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and cement his relationship with Robert Downey Jr. This then pushed him into the director chair for Iron Man 3, which was a great choice. Fun, overblown and with a surprising twist – it’s delicious fun.
It’s nowhere near director Danny Boyle’s best, but Trance is still a fun ride. It’s a film that reunites Boyle with his old writing partner John Hodge – who also recently went on to make T2: Trainspotting with Boyle – and is about an art heist that goes wrong. To understand what happened, a hypnotherapist is hired to try and find a missing painting. The story ends up being hard to understand – but when the visuals are this good, you won’t really mind.
Wernor Herzog liked the true story of Dieter Dengler, a US pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War, that he told his tale twice. The first is in the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The second is in Rescue Dawn, a dramatisation of his survival and it’s a great watch. Christian Bale stars as Dengler who is captured and subsequently escapes from a POW camp – how he does it will make you think twice about this being a true story.
Never has so much good hope been undone so quickly than in Kingsman: The Secret Service. The film is a brilliant send-up of 60s spy movies, a comic-book movie that’s got a lot of heart, as well as lashings of hyped up violence. It’s utterly likeable right up until its vulgar and not-needed coda. Thankfully, Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are having so much fun throughout the rest of the movie, all is nearly forgiven.
The sequel to the first Avengers movie is an unwieldy, clunky film that still has sparkle, thanks to Joss Whedon just about holding proceedings together. He’s made an impossible task of a movie – that has to combine the original Avengers timeline and the new Avengers – into something watchable and altogether coherent. For those that like explosion, there’s plenty to love – as long as you don’t mind a heavy dose of exposition to go with it.
With a script by word genius William Goldman and George Roy Hill at the helm, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is a wonderful watch. Paul Newman and Robert Redford ooze screen chemistry as the titular pair and the soundtrack by Burt Bacharach is lovely on the ears. It’s funny too – mixing both buddy movie and Western tropes with fantastic results.
Focused around a turf war between rival street gangs, The Warriors is an achingly cool cult film. It showcases ’70s New York in all its filth and fury and while its focus is on gang fighting, the film never comes across as an exploitation flick. This is because it’s shot with such style and flourish by director Walter Hill that 37 years on, it’s still as pertinent as ever.
Released at a time when Mel Gibson found his popularity on the wane for various reasons, Apocalypto is one of the actor-director’s finest movies. Shot on digital, Apocalypto rattles on at a furious pace, mixing old-fashioned storytelling (about Mayan culture) with huge smatterings of violence.
For the first hour of From Dusk Till Dawn, you’d be forgiven in thinking that there’s no horror to be seen at all, other than the fact no one clearly wants to go on holiday in a camper van. But when the film finally lands in the Titty Twister, all hell breaks loose. Given this is a Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joint venture, there’s plenty of black comedy to go with the hordes of vampires that eventually turn up and wreak havoc in the movie. Dumb fun.
Kids are the worst. Well, they are when you put them on an island and make them fight to the death until there is only one winner. This Japanese cult classic is a hard watch but it’s worth it. It also pretty much inspired the Hunger Games, albeit in a very watered down way.
Jonathan Glazer may make movies at a glacial speed, but they are always worth the wait. Under The Skin is an unnerving, brilliant piece of cinema that starts off as realist moviemaking and ends up being utterly surreal. The plot, though, sci-fi is slight: Scarlett Johansson is an alien who spends its days driving the roads of Scotland to pick up prey, until one day it starts questioning what it is really doing. But the way Glazer tells the story is nothing short of a masterpiece.
A heartfelt and considered look at Martin Luther King Jr’s struggle to gain equal voting rights, campaigning in racially-charged Alabama, Selma was one of the finest films of 2014 and was rightly nominated for a Best Picture Oscar as a result. It may have missed out on the top gong, but David Oyelowo’s performance as the civil rights leader is a powerful one, with a supporting cast recreating the inspiring story with great respect.
The Virgin Suicides is a woozy homage to movies such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Don’t Look Now. Fractured in its storytelling, dreamlike in its visuals it’s an assured debut by Sofia Coppola. Based on the best-selling novel, the movie charts a spate of suicides in a small town and the cast is lead by the mesmerising Kirsten Dunst.
It is still baffling how Slumdog Millionaire was billed as the ‘feel good hit of the summer’ when it was first released. There is nothing feel good about this rag to riches tale, apart from the very end. It is a sublime watch, though. Director Danny Boyle relishes the colours in India, using them to great effect while there’s a frenetic pace to the whole thing. Lovely stuff.
Adapted from Stephen King’s novella, Shawshank Redemption is a film that tissues were invented for. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life in prison for two murders he didn’t commit. There he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and embarks on both serving his sentence and trying to clear his name. Heartwarming and gut-wrenching in equal measure, Shawshank is a modern classic.
With the tales of Sherlock Holmes now in the public domain, there’s been a proliferation of Holmes tales. Mr Holmes is the most poignant and interesting. It’s based on Holmes in his twilight years who is haunted by his final case. Assured direction by Bill Condon – who recently brought to life Beauty and the Beast – and a startling performance by Ian McKellen, in a part he was born to play, makes Mr Holmes a great laid-back watch.
Captain Phillips is a masterstroke of suspense. Directed by Paul Greengrass – the Bourne franchise king – it’s about the true story of a 2009 hijacking of a US container ship. By showing the hijack from both points of view – the captain’s and the Somali pirates – the film humanises what is a complicated, horrific hostage situation.
Hot off the success of Dallas Buyers Club’s Oscar success, director Jean-Marc made Wild – a great film that showcases the true story of a woman who went on a 1,100-mile solo hike after suffering a tragedy. Reese Witherspoon puts on a superb natural performance as hiker Cheryl – something that complimented by the way the film is shot, using mostly natural light.
Just because this biopic of Miles Davis flew under the radar when it was first released doesn’t mean it’s not great. Don Cheadle is brilliant as Miles Davis, the genius jazz musician. This was a passion project for Cheadle and it shows – it’s not perfect, but the non-linear storytelling works in the film’s favour. And the soundtrack is superb, thanks to Miles’ music and the help of producer Robert Glasper.
Birdman marked the third English-speaking movie by Alejandro G Iñárritu and perhaps his most linear film to date. Instead of weaving multiple narratives the movie is almost a one-take look at the life of Riggan, a theatre actor in the middle of a life crisis. Although the movie won four Oscars, Michael Keaton cruelly missed out on Best Actor – he’s mesmerising.
If you can look beyond Steve Carell’s fake nose, Foxcatcher is a decent drama to watch. Based on the true story of two wrestling brothers who go to the dark side thanks to an overbearing coach, the film is constantly grappling for an Oscar-winning performance but while there isn’t one here it’s great to watch.
Don’t let the title or, for that matter, the plot put you off, Warrior is a fantastic movie, centred on two brothers who find redemption and solace in the biggest MMA tournament ever held. A superb script and superb performances from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as the brothers and Nick Nolte as the alcoholic father, make this a must see.
This study of the Holocaust is something we haven’t seen before. It’s from the point of view of someone who was forced to burn the bodies in Auschwitz who comes across a boy that, he believes, deserves a proper burial. Son of Saul is a hard watch. It’s about a time that’s filled with despair, but director László Nemes tells the tale so well that it makes for utterly compelling viewing.
Adapted from Stephen King’s novella, Shawshank Redemption is a film that tissues were invented for. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life in prison for two murders he didn’t commit. There he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and embarks on both serving his sentence and trying to clear his name. Heartwarming and gut-wrenching in equal measure, Shawshank is a modern classic.
Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles recently showed the world his talent by directing the Rio Olympics opening ceremony but it’s City of God where you will see the true skill of the filmmaker. Shot in and around the favelas of Brazil, the movie is a beautifully shot eye-opening look at the violent neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro and the people who are trying to make a living within them.
Not only did Network spawn one of the greatest lines shouted in a movie – “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” – it also shone a light on US network television and its constant push for higher ratings. The plot is great: longtime anchor Howard Beale finds out that he is about to get fired, so to drive ratings he announces he will commit suicide on air. What ensues is a harsh look at TV that’s still prescient today.
It may leave a lot of the book out and switch the point of view from Harper Lee’s classic novel somewhat, but To Kill A Mockingbird is a fantastic film that’s anchored by one of the very best acting performances you will see. Gregory Peck shines as Atticus Finch, a lawyer who takes on a case that shocks a whole town.
Eyebrows were raised when Anchorman director Adam McKay’s next project was a deep dive into the US subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, but The Big Shot is a fun and frivolous look at the people who betted against the housing market and made a lot of money.
Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling are all superb, playing varying degrees of slime balls with charisma, while the script – which won an Oscar – is whip smart.
David O Russell has had a career resurgence of late that began with The Fighter – about Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) a boxer who is trained by his loser brother, Christian Bale, in fine form. Although it doesn’t quite pack the punch that Warrior does, it still puts up a great fight.
Also consider: A Single Man | Love Is Strange | Mean Creek | Good Will Hunting | Cinema Paradiso | Still Alice | Into The Wild | Babel | 12 Angry Men | Moneyball
There was no better director to tackle the life of Larry Flynt (played effortlessly by Woody Harrelson) than Milos Forman. Having tackled eccentric people in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, he brilliantly encapsulated the unbelievable life of porn baron Flynt. From his rise from pornographic publisher to free speech advocate, the movie slightly idolises the man but it’s still a fantastic watch.
One of the stranger movies you will ever see, The Lobster is set in some sort of strange dystopian future where people who are not in love go to a retreat to find love. If they don’t find love after 45 days, they are turned into an animal of their choice. Far funnier than it should be and littered with symbolism about fighting against the norm, this is one of the most original movies around.
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most divisive directors around and he’s not looking to change that with The Neon Demon. Like Only God Forgives and the slightly more accessible Drive, Neon Demon is stylish, blood soaked and, well, cold. It features a fantastic central performance by Elle Fanning and never compromises – this makes for a difficult but ultimately rewarding watch.
Drive is a brutal but beautiful film to watch. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies are opaque at the best of times, but his fractured storytelling works wonder here, in the tale of a Hollywood stuntman cum getaway driver, who’s played brilliantly by a monosyllabic Ryan Gosling. The look of the movie is iconic, the sound of the movie is sublime – forget neo-noir, Drive is neon-noir.
One of the most gripping and gruelling studies of human determination put to film, Whiplash may be about becoming a student training to be a jazz drummer, but the pain and agony he is put through by JK Simmons Abusive instructor is both a masterclass in acting and a fantastic look into endurance.
It may feel a little dated now, but Fight Club was the epitome of male angst when it was first released. It’s an angry movie, with work and consumerism in its sights but it’s also a brilliant one, thanks to David Fincher’s knack of taking the novel and transposing it menacingly to the big screen. Brad Pitt has never been better as Tyler Durden – his role making you want to talk about Fight Club, instantly breaking the first rule.
“Alright, alright, alright.” Dazed and Confused is wonderful filmmaking that proved way back when Richard Linklater is one of the very best moviemakers of his generation. Centred around the last day of high school for a group of teenagers in 1976, the movie has more fun and pathos in it than most films of its ilk. It also stars a gaggle of future stars, including Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich.
With the title Antichrist, Lars Von Trier was always up for a bit of controversy with this movie, like he always is. Starring a very game Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the movie charts a couple’s life after the terrible death of their son. While not all of it works – what’s with the talking fox? – Antichrist is a thought-provoking and worthy watch, as long as you aren’t easily offended.
Django may not be on a par with Pulp Fiction but it’s a film that shows how fast Quentin Tarantino has come from the pop-trivia infused movies of his youth to the epic Leone-inspired landscapes of Django Unchained. The plot is great: Django (Jamie Foxx) is a freed slave-cum-bounty hunter who is on a mission to find out what happened to his wife.
Before Guardians of the Galaxy catapulted director James Gunn’s career into the stratosphere he had worked on another superhero movie, albeit one that’s about as far from the mainstream as you can get. Super sees Rainn Wilson as a chef who decides to turn into a vigilante after his wife leaves him. What ensues is the blackest of black comedy, with Wilson fighting through bad guy after bad guy, splattering graphic violence all over the shop. Think Deadpool but that bit ruder and you are halfway there – Super is a devilish delight.
Requiem For a Dream is a hard, hard watch. Based on Hubert Selby Jr’s novel about addicts in New York, director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t shirk on showing what drugs do to even the best people. The film is intense to watch but stick with it and you will be rewarded with some of the best visuals seen in a movie as well as some superb acting from Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto and the incomparable Ellen Burstyn.
Also consider: Half Nelson | Filth | Alpha Dog | Robot And Frank | Young Adult | Love | Jackie Brown | The Rules Of Attraction
Shaolin Soccer may be the movie that proved director Stephen Chow was the master of fantasy and slapstick movie making but it’s Kung Fu Hustle that’s his masterpiece. The movie brilliantly blends cartoon-like violence with kung-fu, adds in some crazy special effects and a smattering of musical moments to create a goofy, great film.
While sweding didn’t quite make it into popular parlance, Be Kind Rewind should be celebrated for showing what it’s like to be someone who just wants to make films, no matter what budget they have. And that’s the plot of Be Kind: it’s about two video store clerks who erase all the footage from the tapes in their store, so go on to try and make the movies with no budget but a whole lot of charisma.
A cult comedy horror made in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a whole lot of fun. Hillbillies Tucker and Dale head out to a cabin in the woods for a vacation and, well, all horror breaks loose. With barrels of laughs and buckets of blood, don’t expect award-winning performances but it’s a lot of fun.
Joe Dante perhaps doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a filmmaker. His movies always err on the right side of subversive anarchic fun, and The ‘Burbs is no exception. Starring Tom Hanks as part of a neighbourhood watch that have suspicion that the new neighbours that just moved in are killers, the film manages to keep you guessing right up until its fantastic twist. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but The ‘Burbs is ever watchable and will remind you fondly of the films you used to watch growing up (if you’re a child of the ’80s that is).
The Coen Brothers have made many a classic movie, but The Big Lebowski is their crowning achievement. The plot is based on a mistake: The Dude (Jeff Bridges) just so happens to have the same name as someone who owes money to the mob. This mistaken identity leads The Dude and his ragtag group of friends deep into the belly of the LA underworld. Endlessly quotable and hugely enjoyable, there is no other film like it.
The Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a fantastic comedy from New Zealand director Taika Waititi. It’s a movie about Ricky, a kid who’s been passed through the welfare system and his relationship with Uncle Hec – someone who didn’t completely agree with having a foster child – and the unexpected whirlwind adventure they have together. Adult themes of loss, hope and love are seen through a child’s eyes which makes for some hilarious and sometimes poignant moments. The film was such a success it brought Waititi’s talents to the attention of Marvel, who have snapped him up to direct Thor: Ragnarok.
40 Year Old Virgin is pretty much what it says on the tin – a comedy about a man (Steve Carrell) who has yet to understand the joys of sex and whose life is centred on his love for videogames and collectable action figures. Which is nothing like any of the TechRadar team, I can assure you.
One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest…
Mel Brooks’s career was on a high when he made Young Frankenstein. The success of The Producers and Blazing Saddles had pushed the director into comedy gold territory but it was with Young Frankenstein where he showed his real worth. The movie is a straight spoof of the legend but it’s Brooks’ most assured movie. It lacks the bite of his previous movies but replaces it with a send up that satirises both the style and content of James Whale’s Frankenstein movie. Couple this with some of the best comic performances, not just from the ever-brilliant Marty Feldman and Gene Wilder but Peter Boyle as the monster, and you have a classic as stone-cold as the monster’s flesh.
Feel-good fun oozes from this movie, which is loosely based on the life of English ski jumping underdog Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. While Hugh Jackman is the star power that got this film off the ground, it’s Taron Egerton as the titular character that steals the show. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, he manages to find enough story and sprinkle in some fantasy to create a wonderfully warm watch.
Christopher Guest has been mining the mockumentary format for decades now, offering up classics such as Spinal Tap and Best In Show. Mascots, a Netflix exclusive, is his latest comedy and is centred around the mascots that parade around the big sports games – as they all compete for the ultimate mascot accolade, then Gold Fluffy. While not quite up their with Guest’s best work, this is still a great slab of improvised fun.
Sing Street’s John Carney plays a familiar tune with his movies: they are essentially musicals that are fine to watch if you’re not into musicals. But while Once was great but maudlin and Begin Again was okay and maudlin, Sing Street is fantastic. Centred round a bunch of Irish kids in the 80s who want to start a band, it’s a brilliant and fun movie.
Alexander Payne proves once again that he is one of the best directors around with Nebraska, a film that follows elderly Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) who embarks on a 750-mile journey to Nebraska to cash in the supposed winnings of a sweepstake. Nebraska is full of heart but also home truths when Woody arrives back in his hometown after years away.
Bill and Ted is an acquired taste but it’s an utterly loveable film that shows that, once upon a time, Keanu Reeves had great comic timing. Following on from the duo’s most excellent adventures, this time the Wyld Stallyns have to deal with death and Death, the scythe-holding board-game fanatic. It’s not as fun as watching the pair grab historical figures from the past to help them with a homework assignment, but it’s still a fun nostalgic watch.
One of the funniest movies ever made, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a masterpiece by director Stanley Kubrick. Endlessly quotable – “No fighting in the war room” – with a stellar cast headed up by Peter Sellers, the film is a biting satire that still resonates today.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the perfect ’80s movie. It’s got teenagers rebelling, budding romance, a great soundtrack and a huge ‘stick it to the man’ storyline. It’s also got Matthew Broderick at his finest (as Bueller) and some great direction and writing by the legend that is John Hughes. Great stuff.
A film that continued John Travolta’s Hollywood resurgence post Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty is a fantastic look at what happens when the world of gangsters and Hollywood combine. Penned by Elmore Leonard, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and with a cast that includes Travolta, Danny DeVito and Gene Hackman, Get Shorty is good, sharp fun.
Clueless is the best teenage-centred movie to come out of the ’90s, which is no mean feat considering how many there were in that decade. The exploits of Cher (Alicia Silverstone) at a Beverly Hills high school spawned a whole host of real-life fashion faux pas, as well as a new line of dialogue that was, well, “totally buggin”.
There are so many one liners and sight gags in Airplane that it really doesn’t matter when a few of them don’t work. The film skewers the many disaster movies of the ’70s with a spoof so funny that it hasn’t really been bettered. The stars of the movie are Leslie Nielsen as Dr Rumack and Lloyd Bridges, chosen not just because of his comedy chops but because he had starred in many of the films that the movie was sending up.
One of the most controversial comedies ever is actually pretty tame. But because the subject matter mocked the leader of North Korea and nearly caused a diplomatic disaster, it was pulled by Sony and only shown on VoD. It’s now available on Netflix UK and it’s actually a lot of fun, if you are a fan of Seth Rogan’s anarchic stoner humour.
Also consider: Black Dynamite | Charlie Bartlett | Adventureland | Wet Hot American Summer | Coming To America | Raising Arizona | Look Who’s Back
Let The Right One In is a chilling movie set in Sweden. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist – the screenplay was written by the novelist – it’s a romance of sorts about two children who become friends after one is bullied. Oh, and one of those children just happens to be a vampire. It’s a more subdued film than the events in the book but all the better for it. It’s a film full of atmosphere, fear and, well, romance.
If you are in the least bit claustrophobic, then we wouldn’t recommend The Descent. Written and directed by British director Neil Marshall – who is now the ultimate go-to director for Game of Thrones and other TV fare – the film charts a caving expedition that goes very wrong. The (at the time) relatively unknown cast are superb as the victims of something horrible that comes from the deep darkness of the caves.
The real horror in the Babadook isn’t the monster, ripped from a children’s pop-up book that may or may not be terrifying a mother and son, but the slow and steady psychological decline of the mother Amelia, played by a wonderful Essie Davis. The descent and fear she has at the thought of not being able to protect her child is mesmerising as is the rest of the film. Gripping stuff.
Thanks to Netflix’s sometimes surprising rights, Under The Shadow has popped on to the service around the same time as the movie’s Blu-ray release. We’re glad it has. It’s a fantastic horror film set in Tehran in the ’80s, focusing on a mother and daughter seemingly terrorised by otherworldly beings in an apartment block. The dread in this film is slow release but palpable, making it a terrific, scary watch.
Given Evil Dead II is a quasi sequel/remake of the original Evil Dead, eyebrows were raised when another remake was announced. Thankfully, the movie is actually decent. Director Fede Alvarez plays the movie straight, piling on the gore and the tension, making for some terrifying moments. It feels like Evil Dead too, thanks to both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi coming on board as producers.
This ultra low budget movie comes from the Duplass Brothers and is one of the most inventive chillers in years. The plot is slight, it focuses on a man who answers a Craiglist ad to film what he thinks is a video for the person’s unborn son. And that’s all we will say about the plot as it twists and turns in on itself, terrifying the viewer repeatedly in the process.
While we wait patiently for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon to land on Netflix, Starry Eyes is a great replacement. It’s a horror movie that takes on the same basic theme of someone trying to make it big in an industry – in this case. Hollywood, in Neon Demon’s case fashion – and watching a slow descent into hell because of it.
This Netflix exclusive landed just before Halloween but while it offers chills, don’t come here expecting conventional scares. I Am The Pretty thing is much more brooding than to offer cheap thrills – instead it’s a ghost story hidden within a ghost story, focusing on carer Ruth Wilson who slowly realises the house she is working in may be haunted.
Daniel Radcliffe has done well to rid himself of his Harry Potter persona and it’s all thanks to choosing roles in movies such as Women In Black. Based on the celebrated novel of the same name and in turn the stage play, the film is a gothic delight, harking back to the good ol’ days when horror was implied rather than rammed down a watcher’s throat. Well, until the final act at least. Prepare to feel your spine tingle.
Insidious is a film that proves, if you want mainstream horror done right, then you have to call up director James Wan. He brings a menacing atmosphere to this film about a family that moves into a house that’s not what it seems. While it doesn’t quite match up to the scares seen in Sinister – another film produced by Jason Blum – Wan does enough to make sure there’s plenty of shocks to go around.
While the cast may err on the side of mainstream – Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox all star – the plot of Bone Tomahawk does not. Without giving too much away, it’s essentially cannibals versus grizzled men of the Wild West. Russell is superb in this tale that is absolutely relentless and all the better for it.
Hush has a brilliant premise. Directed by Mike Flanagan it revolves around a killer who tries to get the best of a girl in the house on her own. So far so ‘every horror movie ever made’, but the girl who is being stalked happens to be deaf. Yes, the home invasion genre is getting tired, but Hush manages to quietly breathe new life into it.
A forgotten ’70s gem of a horror movie, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is all soft focus and maudlin music as we follow the exploits of a woman who has just gotten out of a psychiatric hospital. While staying in a country house to recuperate, she befriends a strange visitor. It’s worth watching just for John D Hancock’s dreamy direction.
One of the more high-concept horrors on the list, Would You Rather is about a group of seven people who are invited to a millionaire’s house to play a game of ‘Would You Rather’. The game turns out to be one of the most sadistic around.
Alex Garland already proved himself as a screenwriter, writing The Beach and 28 Days Later, and now he’s proved himself to be a better director. Ex Machina is a superb look at the issues with AI, focusing on a programmer who is invited to take part in an experiment by a mysterious technologist. The result is a thought-provoking, sometimes scary study into human robotic behaviour. Oh, and some nifty dancing too.
While it never quite reaches the perfection its visuals and stellar cast promises, Tomorrowland is a sumptuous watch. A throwback to the old sci-fi adventures of old, the film is based on the Tomorrowland ride at Disney. Cynics would say that the movie is just one big Disney promotion but the movie is better than that. It’s a great story that transcends dimensions – just sit back and go with it.
While it never sails as high as District 9 – director Neill Blomkamp’s stunning debut – Chappie is a fun, interesting movie set in the near future about a police droid that becomes sentient. Think Robocop but with lower-key technology and half the violence. The movie is a bit disjointed in places but it’s worth a watch, even if it’s just to see Hugh Jackman play a bad guy.
Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t the critical darling that the first film was. This is partly due to the bumbling nature of the marketing campaign, which tried to keep the real identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character secret. Away from this, it’s a decent movie – it won’t satiate the appetite of true Trekkies but it’s got enough for others to boldly go and enjoy.
This disaster movie about zombies taking over the world could well have been a disaster in itself. The shoot was beset with problems and the script was rewritten while filming took place (hence the tonally different conclusion). But what remains is a film that’s a decent slice of action and terror that nods to the book of the same name, rather than adapting it wholly. Brad Pitt is once again great as the dad who is out to save his family and in turn the world. And the ending is something rarely seen in Hollywood fare – it’s a far cry from the bombastic nature of the rest of the movie and all the better for it.
Timur Bekmambetov may be a Hollywood director now, but where his American movies are visually appealing but pretty awful (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the remake to Ben-Hur), Night Watch, which he made in his native Russia, is fantastic. At the time of its release (2004), it was the most successful Russian movie for all time and for good reason. It’s a brilliant, sometimes incoherent fantasy that melds Bekmambetov’s great style with a story that involves modern day vampires that are split into two factions: the night watch and the day watch. Don’t try and understand it, just feast on the surreal, stunning visuals.
Splitting the last book in the series was a mistake as instead of having one fantastic movie, you instead have two good ones. Mockingjay – Part 2 is by far the darkest Hunger Games movie but it’s well made and a fitting end to the franchise. While there’s not enough Hunger Games style action scenes, the end showdown is worth the wait and elevates the movie above its YA fiction leanings.
Guillermo del Toro’s back catalogue is wonderful bag of strangeness. He’s delved into the superhero genre with both Blade II and Hellboy, wrote a fan letter to Japanese culture with Pacific Rim, tackled horror with both Chronos and Devil’s Backbone but his masterpiece has to be Pan’s Labyrinth. An adult fairytale that has peculiar characters and a sad story set among the Spanish Civil War, it masterfully blends child and adult fantasy. It’s a must watch.
The film that pretty much got Rian Johnson the job to helm Star Wars: Episode VIII, Looper is a timey wimey tale that is set in 2074, when time travel has been invented but subsequently banned. This doesn’t stop a band of outlaws (called Loopers) using the technology to assassinate people in the past for payment. Yes it’s convoluted but it’s also a gripping film that doesn’t let up until its twist ending.
The Look of Silence is a hard watch. A sequel of sorts to The Act of Killing – which is sadly not on Netflix – it was created by Joshua Oppenheimer and focuses on a man who confronts the men who killed during the 1965 ‘purge of communists’ in Indonesia in the 60s. He confronts them while giving them eye exams – a ruse to get them to speak. It all makes for uneasy but riveting viewing.
This doc about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre is a must watch. It’s a frankly frightening look at why the massacre took place and how failings in the US school system and the ease of use guns can be bought in the US were to blame for what happened. Nearly 20 years on, the documentary will still have a profound effect on all who watch it.
The White Helmets is, quite rightly, the winner of Netflix’s first-ever Oscar. It was directed by the only British winner of the 2017 Oscars, too. Orlando von Einsiedel directs this stunning look at the day to day operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, volunteers who assist neighbourhoods that have been bombed, helping find survivors amongst the devastation. It may only be 40 minutes long, but the bravery and tragedy you witness will stay with you forever.
Netflix bagged its first Bafta thanks to this stunning documentary. 13th looks at race and the US criminal justice system, showcasing numerous injustices in the way African Americans have been treated in the system. The documentary was made by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who also made the superb Selma.
Some Kind of Monster is a intimate look at one of the most successful heavy metal bands ever, Metallica. This unflinching doc focuses on the band as they hit a crossroads – the departure of their bass player. We see a band that’s been together for 20 years talk through their emotions and pain points. By enlisting the help of a therapist, the documentary is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at a rock group in group therapy.
One of the most important documentaries of the decade, Blackfish charts the life of killer whale Tilikum, who sadly died recently. Kept in captivity as a ‘performance mammal’ at SeaWorld, the doc explores the unsightly side of why keeping whales in captivity is a terrible idea. Blackfish had such an impact that SeaWorld decided to phase out its orca shows and rebrand itself. Powerful stuff.
This Netflix exclusive documentary is a heart-wrenching look at one of the greatest singers of all time. While the highlights are definitely seeing Simone sing live – there’s a huge amount of never-before-seen archive footage – it’s the eye-opening truths about her troubled life that hit home hardest.
Cartel Land works great as a companion piece to Sicario – found in our Best Thriller list. It’s a documentary focused on the bloody and brutal battle between drug runners on the US/Mexican border and a vigilante group of civilians who have had enough and fight back. Produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Cartel Land is a despairing watch punctuated by some stunning cinematography and a fantastic score.
Searching for Sugar Man is a superb true tale of two filmmakers looking for answers about the apparent death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez. Rodriguez, at the time, wasn’t really known outside of the US but in South Africa he was something of a cult figure. As the documentary unfolds, it becomes apparent that the movie will have one hell of a surprise ending.
A movie about chess shouldn’t be this riveting but Bobby Fischer Against The World is a stunning portrait of a man who was one of the best chess players in the world. Featuring interviews from other chess luminaries, such as Garry Kasparov, the documentary looks into the tumultuous life of Fischer who won everything going in the 60s, only to disappear into obscurity for some 20 years.
This documentary may have gained prominence thanks to its DJ Shadow soundtrack, but it’s the subject matter that makes Dark Days such a must watch. Shot and directed by Marc Singer, Dark Days shines a light on those who live in underground tunnels under New York. Criminally, this was Singer’s only foray into documentary filmmaking but at least he created a classic.
At nearly three hours’ long, Hoop Dreams is an exhaustive and very personal look at two teenagers trying to make it big in professional basketball. The two kids in question – William Gates and Arthur Agee – are from poor backgrounds which makes the push to basketball superstardom even more effective. The film won Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and for good reason – it’s one of the best sports movies ever made.
The Queen Of Versailles is a documentary with a difference. It starts off being about the Siegel family, one of the richest in America, who are building the most expensive house in the US. During filming, however, the Great Recession of 2008 hits and David Siegel’s timeshare business is hit badly, leaving the building work halted. As his wealth slowly evaporates, the cameras continue to roll.
Also consider: Amanda Knox | Hostage To The Devil | Hot Girls Wanted | Keith Richards Under The Influence | Kurt & Courtney | Catfish | Iris | Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer | The Square | Tabloid
Emily Blunt is sensational in Sicario, a film that’s centred around the drug cartels of Mexico and the government agents tasked to stop the drug running. Alongside Blunt as a new FBI agent assigned to the case is Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, two agents who are well versed in dealing with drug lords and the devastation they cause. The film was so good, its director Denis Villeneuve was picked to helm the sequel to Blade Runner off the back of it.
Based on the amazing true tale of an FBI informant who infiltrated the highest reaches of the mafia, only to nearly be turned himself, Donnie Brasco is a mob movie like no other. Stellar performances from both Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, this is an assured gangster tale.
David Cronenberg was on a role when Eastern Promises came out. It was his second feature to, well, feature Viggo Mortensen – the first is the peerless A History of Violence – and is about the goings on of the Russian mob in the UK. Mortensen is frightening as a mob member but it is Naomi Watts who steals the show as the midwife who has a dangerous secret to tell.
In what is one of the best performances in a long and varied career Michael Caine is utterly brilliant in Harry Brown – a British Falling Down, where a pensioner goes to extremes to avenge his friend’s death and battle the crime, drugs and unrule that have taken over his neighbourhood. It’s a stark tale that holds a broken mirror up to the UK’s inner city life.
To be a fan of Danny Boyle is to be a fan of movies in general – his style, flits and changes with each film he does, you’d be hard pressed to put a label on what is a Danny Boyle movie. But one thing he has with aplomb is style. 127 Hours is a tense, visceral meditation in loneliness. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), a thrill-seeker who finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he gets his arm stuck in a canyon. What ensues is a man who, through sheer strong mindedness and some DIY surgery, tries to find his way out of a terrible situation.
One of the most talked about films at 2016’s Sundance Festival, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the directorial debut of Macon Blair – a face you will know very well if you’ve seen the likes of Blue Ruin and Green Room. Starring the ever-wonderful Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood, the movie is about two people who go on a revenge mission after they both get burgled. The whole thing plays out like 90s Tarantino-esque thriller, complete with bizarre happenings and fantastic central performances.
Tragically, Green Room is now earmarked as one of the final final films of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin. He is fantastic in this tale about a band being trapped in a club with a group of skinheads after they witness a horrific murder. It starts off slow but once the events happen, the film ratchets up the tension to almost breaking point.
Back before Jennifer Lawrence was a superstar Oscar-winning actress, she made a film that arguably houses her best role. Winter’s Bone is bleak. Set around the harsh Ozark Mountain landscape of the US, the film sees Lawrence on the hunt for her meth-making father. On the way, she unravels a conspiracy that involves much of her untrustworthy neighbours. This is Lawrence at her understated best.
One of the first movies to be made under the Netflix banner, Beasts of No Nation sees Idris Elba on fine form as a commandant fighting in a civil war. But the biggest praise has to go to Abraham Attah’s Agu – a boy soldier caught in the fighting. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga – who made the first season of True Detective the masterpiece it was – this is a harrowing but great watch.
This is film noir at its absolute best. Centred on an insurance salesmen Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) who is mixed up in a tale that sees a woman (the brilliant Barbara Stanwyc) intent on murdering her husband, Double Indemnity is gripping to watch and, ultimately, heartbreaking. Written by Raymond Chandler with help from director Billy Wilder, this rival’s Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard for being Wilder’s best film.
Gillian Flynn’s twisty novel is perfect fodder for director David Fincher. It’s dark, almost without a moral compass and probes into the dark recesses of the human condition. Ben Affleck is superb as Nick Dunne, the grieving husband whose wife has disappeared. But it is Rosamund Pike who deserves all the accolades – her portrayal of ‘Amazing’ Amy is something of a roller coaster.
Fargo is the perfect Coen Brothers film. Funny enough to make you chuckle, it’s also filled with some ridiculously dark moments, most of which involve Steve Buscemi’s bumbling hitman and William H Macy as the cowardly corrupt Jerry Lundegaard. The star of the film, however, has to be Frances McDormand’s heavily pregnant, inquisitive and just darn tootin’ nice detective.
Brian De Palma is a magpie filmmaker. His style apes that of his hero, Alfred Hitchcock, and he loves to make remakes. Blow Out is one of his best. A re-imagining of the seminal ’60s film Blow-Up, De Palma moves the action from London to the US and focuses on sound not photography as Travolta stars as a sound effects producer who believes he has caught a real murder on tape.
Also consider: Carlos The Jackal | The Purge: Anarchy | Gone Baby Gone | The Spy Who Came In From The Cold | We Need To Talk About Kevin | The Parallax View | Rear Window | Serpico | Natural Born Killers
No, not a film about the Beckham’s model son but a sweeping tale of young love in New York in the 50s. Saoirse Ronan – easily one of the best actresses around at the moment – stars as the Irish immigrant who moves from a small Irish town to Brooklyn in search of work. Adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, the story flits along at a great pace but its the acting that really shines.
The ultimate teen romantic comedy, Sixteen Candles is about Samantha (Molly Ringwald) who is about to hit her 16th birthday. Full of the teenage angst you’d expect from such a birthday, Samantha pines for an older boy, while trying to stop her nerdy friend from falling in love with her. Yes, it’s dated but it’s still a fun watch – especially if you remember it first time around.
Focusing on the life of Stephen Hawking, particularly his relationship with his first wife, The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film to watch – even if it’s a little unfulfilling. Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are fantastic, though, with Redmayne a deserved winner of the Best Actor Oscar.
Labor Day wasn’t a success in the UK but you can put that down to the very US centric title. That aside, it’s another great film from Juno’s Jason Reitman, who is rivalling his dad Ivan for classics. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are Adele and Frank, a single mum and convict who kindle an unlikely romance. Full of beautiful imagery and lingering shots, Labor Day is an under-appreciated gem.
Woody Allen won an Oscar for Best Direction, Diane Keaton for Best Actress and Annie Hall won for Best Film in 1977… it’s fair to say this movie has critical clout. Even if it didn’t win these awards, it would still be known as one of the very best movies about love, and certainly one of the best movies Woody Allen has made. The titular Annie Hall is ‘the one who got away’, as Allen’s comedian character Alvy Singer tries to figure out what went wrong in their relationship.
As much a love letter to New York as it is a romantic film, Manhattan is a brilliant look at love, through those who are in love and have lost love. Woody Allen plays, well, Woody Allen, someone who is already twice divorced when we meet him, then follow him through a string of affairs throughout the film. Although it could do without the rather sombre third act, the movie is a delight.
Who said romance films had to just be about love? 45 Years is about falling out of love, after many years of marriage, and is an absolutely devastating watch. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are the couple trying to figure out what the future holds, when Courtenay’s character drops a truth bombshell that puts a strain on a relationship that has lasted 45 years and beyond.
Charlie Kaufman does it again with Anomalisa, offering up an adult take on relationships using one of the most childlike forms – puppetry. David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh lend their exquisite voices to the movie but it’s the animation and the heartbreaking story of a man that experiences something out of the ordinary that shines through.
If you can forgive the ending – there was definitely room for Jack on that raft – Titanic is one of the best, and certainly most epic love stories. The sinking of the Titanic plays second fiddle to the romance of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), two lovers from different social groups that end up on the illustrious liner, the Titanic. Yes, it’s overwrought and melodramatic, but it’s still one helluva watch.
It’s the ’70s in SanFrancisco. Minnie Goets (a fantastic Bel Powley) is 15 and falls for her mother’s boyfriend. What ensues is a refreshingly honest, funny, unflinching portrayal of unrequited young love. Although there is a lot of sex shown, the movie doesn’t sugarcoat it but tells you as it is and because of that it’s a much better film than the title implies.
Chasing Amy is of its time – ’90s, slacker, indie – but still manages to say something profound about relationships that rings true today. Amy is a comic-book artist who happens to be a lesbian. She becomes the object of desire of Ben Affleck’s Holden who falls for her in a big way. Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith at his near best.
Laika is a little-known production company that is taking the world by storm with its animation delights. Its latest movie Kubo and the Two Strings is being heralded a classic – as should The Boxtrolls. This stop-motion animation delight centres on a community of trolls who live among the trash of the city of Cheesebridge and come to the aid of a human orphan. The Boxtrolls is a beautifully made movie that shows there’s still a lot of love in stop-motion animation. If you don’t believe us, try and watch the end credits of this movie without a tear in your eye. Superb stuff.
The geniuses that brought us Wallace and Gromit decided not to use their most famous creations for their first feature-length movie. Instead they chose this brilliant, endearing story about the lives of some chickens in a chicken run. Mel Gibson adds his voice for some A-List star power but it’s the stop-motion animation that’s standout here.
Roald Dahl’s greatest book, Matilda, is given a great adaptation, thanks to director and star Danny DeVito. While brilliant at playing one of Matilda’s awful parents, it’s his direction that’s key here – weaving together hyperreal imagery, a faithfulness to the book and the right balance of comedy and unpleasantness.
Unfairly shunned by critics when it was first released, Hook is a fun spin on the Peter Pan mythos. Directed by Steven Spielberg, he brings his child-eyed wonder to the Pan world, shifting the narrative to a grown-up Pan played brilliantly by Robin Williams. His performance is backed by Dustin Hoffman at his funniest as Captain Hook and too many other great performances to mention.
Wes Anderson’s quirky directing is a perfect fit for Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Fox. Lovingly crafted using stop animation that’s voiced by Anderson alumni, and George Clooney, the film works well as a kids animation, but it’s adults that will get the biggest kicks. Director Anderson is going back to stop animation for his next feature – let’s hope it’s half as good as the fantastic Fantastic Mr Fox.
One of the most ’80s movies you will ever see, The Explorers is directed by the legend that is Joe Dante and follows a bunch of kids who decide to make their very own (working) space ship in their bedroom and then decide to explore space. It’s barmy but it’s also brilliant.
Those who watched the trailer for Into The Woods may have been surprised that this movie is a musical, and a rather good one at that. Based on a handful of Brothers Grimm fairy tales and written by Stephen Sondheim, the film looks amazing and has a stellar cast lead by the always watchable Anna Kendrick.
You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power. What power? The Power of voodoo. Who do? You do. Do what? Remind me of the babe. Ah, Labyrinth – a superb, strange movie that reminds us all what legends both David Bowie and Jim Henson were.
Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t do too much anymore – probably busy counting his billions from Seinfeld – but when he does, the world needs to take notice. Bee Movie is a lovely animated movie that follows a bee worker (Seinfeld) who finds out that humans have been stealing and eating honey for years. The film generated enough ‘buzz’ back in 2007, that there’s now rumours of a sequel.
Muppet madness ensues in The Dark Crystal – yet another classic brought to life by the majesty of Jim Henson and his puppet creations. It may not be as loved as Labyrinth but it’s still a brilliant children’s tale about the search for a crystal that once brought balance to the world.
DreamWorks may not be able to dish out the hits as well as Disney but it has still has released a number of fun animated films in recent years. One of the better ones is Monsters Vs Aliens. Using the voice talents of Reese Witherspoon and Hugh Laurie, the movie sees a team of monsters help save the world from, well, aliens.
By Marc Chacksfield
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