There’s no denying that the streaming platform has come up trumps during the neverending coronavirus lockdown, keeping us supplied with a steady stream of new film titles each month. If we had one criticism, though, it’s this: there’s almost too much choice.
But if you, like this writer, have ever found yourself scrolling endlessly through the many movies available to watch on Netflix, please don’t despair. Because, in a bid to help you out, we’ve cherry-picked the 23 absolute best films streaming right now (a list which we vow to keep updated henceforth).
The one thing each of these titles has in common, though? Well, they’re guaranteed to keep you entertained from titles to credits.
La La Land
The almost-Oscar winner weaves a bittersweet tale of love and friendship between aspiring actor Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), as they pursue their dreams in Los Angeles – a city which values commodity, praises shallowness, and prides physical appearance above all else.
Based on the novel of the same name. Mudbound (starring an unrecognisable Mary J. Blige) sees two Mississippi families – one Black, one white – confront the brutal realities of prejudice, farming and friendship in a divided World War II era.
The exquisitely tragic Roma follows the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family, as a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón’s upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.
Svaha: The Sixth Finger
A Korean box office topper, Svaha: The Sixth Finger is a dark and moody detective-thriller about a pastor hired to look into a shadowy religious cult. Ideal viewing for a dark and stormy night…
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High-concept thriller Red Dot, aka Netflix’s first-ever feature film from Sweden, starts off by treading somewhat familiar territory; David and Nadja, a couple in their late 20s, are struggling to navigate the peaks and troughs of their increasingly rocky relationship. When Nadja becomes pregnant, though, the duo realise they have to make a decision about their marriage: are they in, or are they out?
In a bid to rekindle the romance, the couple decide to travel to the magnificent expanses in the north of Sweden for a ski hike. But, after a quarrel with two local hunters, their make-or-break trip slowly turns into a nightmare as they find themselves relentlessly pursued through a snowstorm by a stranger with a laser sight gun.
Go in expecting to hold your breath for a very long time… and gasp in horror at that unexpected ending, too.
All about a teenage girl’s struggle to take care of herself and her little brother, this outstanding film perfectly captures what it’s truly like to be a teen carrying the weight of the world.
As Stylist contributor Victoria Sanusi puts it: “Rocks really does feel bigger than it’s hour and a half run time. And it’s a landmark for so many women who haven’t felt seen or reflected in the productions they’ve grown up watching.”
No wonder it has a 98% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, eh?
Starring Barbra Streisand at her brilliant best, rich musical movie Funny Girl follows the life of the 1930s comedan Fannie Brice, from her early days in the Jewish slums of New York, to the height of her career with the Ziegfeld Follies.
In this extraordinary Japanese coming-of-age tale, two teenagers share a profound, magical connection upon discovering they are swapping bodies. But things become even more complicated when they decide to meet in person.
Fair warning, though: don’t go in thinking Your Name is “for kids” just because it’s a cartoon. Profoundly touching, it’s actually one of the best films out there showing how we process and experience time and loss.
10 Cloverfield Lane
As unlike the original Cloverfield film as it’s possible to be, this tense thriller sees Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wake up to find herself in a bunker with a stranger named Howard (John Goodman).
He claims he rescued her from a car crash and spirited her underground to save her from a now-uninhabitable outside world. She suspects, though, that he’s lying in a bid to keep her calm and quiet.
What’s really going on outside? Will she ever be able to escape Howard’s clutches? And why oh why is there a vat of hydrofluoric acid down here with them…?
12 Years A Slave
Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery.
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o, this Academy Award-winning film has been praised for driving straight to the heart of the cruelties of oppression.
The Secret Garden
In this classic tale for all ages (directed by Agnieszka Holland), a spoiled young girl finds herself transformed when she uncovers a secret garden which has been neglected and hidden for years. Slowly but surely, the magic of the outdoors winds its spell upon her and the entire household, setting in motion a chain of wonders.
Always Be My Maybe
When childhood sweethearts Sasha and Marcus have a falling out as teens, they don’t speak to one another for 15 years. When their paths cross in San Francisco, it quickly becomes apparent that they still have feelings for one another. Too bad, then, that they now inhabit entirely different worlds.
”Always Be My Maybe explores what it means to be Asian, exploring the sacrifices of immigrant parents and the fact that none of the leads in this film could be written off as the token Asian,” says Stylist contributor Hannah-Rose Yee.
“Because they’re all Asian. But it has plenty more to say on subjects other than diversity, too.”
When a group of washed-up actors from the cult sci-fi television series, Galaxy Quest, are abducted by a race of aliens, they quickly realise that their (very friendly) captors have zero concept of TV. Instead, they wholeheartedly believe that the actors are the heroic space travellers they portray on-screen… and that they’re the only ones who can save them from a formidable foe, too.
Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver star in this laugh-out-loud 1999 satire, which explores sexist tropes in sci-fi with aplomb. And, yes, it’s one of this writer’s favourite films of all time ever. What of it?
Sorry To Bother You
Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson star in Sorry to Bother You, a daring (and wonderfully weird) satire on capitalist greed.
“And the risks he takes in doing so, even if they don’t quite take your fancy, must be respected in a world of over-done, over-marketed, sequel-and-remake-sodden features. Especially when the message strikes at the heart of human greed; something even the poorest among us are often guilty of.”
West Side Story
Easily one of the best musical adaptations to date, the OG West Side Story sees lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) find themselves entangled in the bitter battle between their gangster families. Knowing this feud will lead to disastrous consequences, Maria sends Tony to end the fight.
Whether he succeeds or not, we will not say (spoilers). What we will say, though, is this: Rita Moreno’s tour de force performance of America is worth tuning in for alone, because it really is that good.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is an adaptation of August Wilson’s play of the same name, tells the story of the “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey in 1927 Chicago.
And the Netflix Original –which stars Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman – already has a bevy of awards nominations to its name, despite the fact it only dropped on the streaming platform last December.
“This is not a story where experience trumps young ambition, but one that demonstrates the dangers of how unpredictable young ambition can be and how valuable life is,” promises Stylist’s Kiran Meeda.
Set It Up
In the smart and furiously funny Set It Up, two overworked and underpaid assistants come up with a plan to get their bosses off their backs by setting them up with each other. Guess what happens next?
Yes, God, Yes
In the critically-acclaimed Yes, God, Yes, Natalia Dyer stars as Alice, a 16-year-old Catholic girl who finds herself plagued by “lustful” thoughts after an AOL chat turns unexpectedly racy.
Keen to seek redemption, she attends a four-day religious retreat (described by the director as a “brainwashing” experience) to try and suppress what she sees as “sinful” urges, but her mission becomes increasingly impossible when she finds herself falling head-over-heels for a cute upperclassman.
The film currently boasts a 93% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many praising the film’s sensitive and honest approach to Alice’s discovery of masturbation and all the guilt, shame, and pleasure that comes with it.
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Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse
If you’re looking for a movie that looks and feels like an actual comic book, this award-winning animation does just that.
You know the story by heart, of course, even if you don’t realise it: Miles Morales gains superpowers from a spider bite, and sets to protecting the city as Spider-Man. Before too long. though, he starts meeting alternate versions of himself (like the OG Spider-Man, for example) and soon becomes embroiled in an epic battle to save the multiverse.
The Forty-Year-Old Version
After winning at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Radha Blank’s The Forty-Year-Old Version is now available to stream via Netflix.
It tells the tale of Radha, a down-on-her-luck New York playwright, who’s desperate for a breakthrough before 40. When she foils what seems like her last shot at success, though, she’s left with no choice but to reinvent herself as a rapper: RadhaMUSPrime.
“The Forty-Year-Old Version is hilariously good,” raved one viewer. “Haven’t laughed this hard at a movie since I can remember. So many highlights. The salute to Spike, Harlem, female [MCs], and finding your voice at 40… what a gem of a film.”
Hereditary is the terrifying Toni Collette horror movie that scientists have dubbed one of the scariest films of all time. Ever.
“It’s as if Hereditary is a parasite that’s burrowed itself deep into my brain, latching on to my innermost self and depositing eggs all over it,” reads Stylist’s review of the haunted house flick.
“And you know what’s worse? Those eggs will remain there, dormant, ready to hatch open the next time I’m alone in the dark. Or, just maybe, the next time I’m not quite as alone as I think I am…”
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, cult classic Clueless tells the tale of Cher, a rich high-school student who takes it upon herself to help a new student gain popularity. And, in the process, she unexpectedly discovers that she has feelings for someone very close to her, too.
Not to be confused with The Handmaid’s Tale, this erotic fantasy from Park Chan-wook whisks us away to Korea in the 1930s, as an orphaned pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) teams up with a con man (Ha Jung-woo) to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance.
Is it a love story? A revenge thriller? A puzzle film? Or something else entirely? Settle down and prepare to have your senses well and truly ravished as you find out.
In His House, refugees Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) risk everything to escape with the violent conflict of Sudan. An accident at sea, though, sees them arrive in the UK grieving a tragic loss.
After spending time at a detention centre, they are granted a grimy house of their very own. It feels like a fresh start. But it isn’t long before they realise something is deeply wrong with their new home.
Dubbing the film “a beautiful and challenging tragedy,” Stylist reviewer Dahaba Ali Hussen promises: “Director Remi Weekes keeps you rooted here in the UK during the course of his powerful debut, while at the same time spiriting you away to another continent, and keeping you trapped within the confines of your mind.”
In this brilliant teen comedy, best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) realise that they have been cast aside by their surroundings for being bookworms and pretentious. Cue them deciding to let loose and make up for the lost time, with somewhat disastrous consequences…
Definitely not to be confused with Halle Berry’s film of the same name, The Call straddles the line between thriller and horror as a woman finds herself connected by phone to a serial killer in her house.
The big twist? They’re both in the same house, but set 20 years apart – and everything our heroine says has the potential to put another woman’s past, and life, on the line. And, yes, the results have earned this South Korean flick that much-coveted 100% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This award-winning film, all about a once-happy couple’s struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce, offers an intimate look at the emotions that pour out when a relationship is put under extreme stress.
This spectacularly beautiful animation by acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki is the sort of nightmare-inducing fable that’s very much made for adults.
It tells the story of 10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi), who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. Seemingly abandoned, this writer hastens to point out, but not actually abandoned.
After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her family.
Will she succeed?
Images: Netflix, Sarah Gavron, Rex Features, Getty
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.