There’s never been a better time to chill out on the couch and put on a great movie. People are ditching traditional free-to-air TV and cinema, instead staying at home both to save a buck and avoid the hassle of having to go out. This has given rise to subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix. We’ve highlighted the worst movies to watch on Netflix, but if you’re strapped for time, you don’t want to be stuck watching something you hate. At the same time, Netflix’s huge log of movies makes it a nightmare for an indecisive person – such as this author – to decide what to sit down and watch.
Back in the day you paid $5 for an overnight video rental, so you were pretty much pigeonholed into watching it. Nowadays Netflix gives you possibly too much choice, and all for a low price. Well, we endeavour to help people make better-informed decisions about what they’re buying, and movies are no exception. Here’s a list of the top 16 movies to watch on Netflix, and it’s unashamedly subjective. Hit the links below to go straight to a movie that interests you:
- Bird Box
- The Lobster
- Outlaw King
- 22 July
- American Sniper
- The Big Short
- Dallas Buyers Club
- Good Will Hunting
- The Imitation Game
- The Revenant
You’ve seen the memes, but you might be wondering if the record-breaking Bird Box is all its cracked up to be. The Netflix original film stars Sandra Bullock as Malorie, alongside John Malkovich and Aussie icon, Jacki Weaver. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, takes place in a world where mysterious creatures have decimated the population, as the moment you look at them, you’ll see something that drives you to commit suicide.
To survive, you must stay inside with all windows to the outside blocked out. If you venture outside, you’ll need to be blindfolded and preferably have some birds with you, as they can sense the creatures. While much of the film switches between the past (when the outbreak first happens) and the present (with Malorie taking two children down a river while blindfolded), it’s easy to follow along with and it’s full of twists, turns and ‘aha’ moments. If you enjoy suspenseful, supernatural, post-apocalyptic thrillers, it’s a good one to settle into, even if you just want to understand what all the fuss is about.
Don’t think beauty pageants aren’t a big deal? Willowdean Dixon’s story might prove you wrong. This movie is about a young plus size girl who rebels against her former beauty queen mother, Rosie, by signing up for her mum’s pageant in protest.
The charming coming-of-age film is based on Julie Murphy’s novel, Dumplin’, which primarily explores two common issues many teenagers face: insecurity and body issues. In doing so, the film tackles these topics by rewarding audiences with strong female characters, body positivity, and fabulous drag queens who alone earn the movie a perfect score. Dumplin’s love interest, who is played by Luke Benward, is also claimed to rival other Netflix-born heartthrobs like Peter Kavinsky. Danielle Macdonald stars as Dumplin’, while Jennifer Aniston plays the mother.
Think being single is bad? In this dystopian society, it’s criminal. Yorgos Lanthimos’s award-winning film isn’t like any typical rom com you can quickly snack on during your weekend Netflix binge. The Lobster is a 12-part degustation course into what people lust for, versus what they really get out of, relationships. Although like most romantic films, this love story blooms in unexpected and forbidden circumstances.
After a breakup, David joins a group of other single people who are sent to a country hotel and forced to find a partner within 45 days. Otherwise, he’ll end up turning into the animal of his choosing. The film is a colourful bouquet of dark comedy and sci-fi thriller, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.
You’ll remember Mel Gibson riding a horse around the Scottish countryside, throwing spears at the English, and going on about freedom… Well, Outlaw King is basically the sequel – and an epic one at that! It tells the story of Robert the Bruce (you’ll remember that name for sure) who transforms from ‘defeated nobleman’ to ‘outlaw hero’ during the oppressive occupation of medieval Scotland by Edward I of England.
It’s the year 1304 and the English have seized power in Scotland. But despite grave consequences, Robert the Bruce seizes the crown of Scotland, and rallies an impassioned group of men to fight back against the mighty army of the tyrannical King and his volatile son. Braveheart certainly wasn’t short on violence, but Outlaw King takes it to the next level in places. If you’ve ever wondered what being hanged, drawn and quartered really entailed, you’ll find out. The Scots aren’t just baring their backsides against the English as they did in Braveheart either. The violence goes both ways, and isn’t for the fainthearted.
22 July is the most harrowing movie you’ll watch on Netflix. It seems almost perverse to add it to this list of best Netflix movies, but the fact is it’s a compelling watch. You’ve probably swiped past it on your daily browse of things to watch, and may not even realise what it is. However, a few seconds in, you’ll realise exactly what the film depicts and what’s about to unfold. 22 July tells the story of the terrorist attack on Oslo and the island or Utoya on July 22, 2011. Far-right extremist Andres Breivik is shown preparing for, and then executing, his heinous act of violence, mostly against teenagers who had gathered on the seemingly safe and idyllic island a short drive from the Norwegian capital. Now you remember the story.
The movie is noteworthy for many reasons; it’s graphic violence (the horrors of July 22 are not sugar-coated – far from it); is the movie’s focus on Breivik and his motives appropriate? (it has proven controversial); and should the film have even been made in the first place?
You can decide for yourself after watching, but it’s hard to imagine that all the families of the victims would have been overjoyed about it. The movie also tells the story of some of the survivors, their families and their painful road to recovery, but you can see why this movie hasn’t been received well in some quarters. Judged purely on its merits as a movie, it’s an incredible watch.
Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, American Sniper is the biopic of the world’s most lethal sniper, Chris Kyle. With over 160 confirmed kills in the Iraq War, Kyle has to juggle country duties and family duties, while reconciling his job with God. This 2014 film is about as ‘Murca’ as you can get, with patriotism tugging at the heart strings, heroic actions and tragic downfalls.
Cooper was praised for his depiction of Kyle, and credit must be given to his weightlifting regime to resemble the real life U.S. soldier – his weightlifting depicted on screen is real. It’s somewhat rare for such a recent blockbuster to be on Netflix, but we’re not complaining. Turn the sound up, and the lights off for this one.
The Big Short
As we reach the one-third point of this list, why not emulate what the stock market did in 2008, and peak then crash? Only kidding, but the Big Short is a comedy/drama based on a true story that will make you think. It will get your blood boiling over the people and financial institutions that led to the greatest financial crisis in our lifetime.
The Big Short follows one of the many GFC causes. Banks and lenders are selling subprime mortgages to unstable people who have almost no hope of paying it back. The banks are then packaging these mortgages up into bonds and selling them unscrupulously, with credit agencies in on the act too. The results are as you’d expect, and the main characters predict this.
It’s a film that will make you want to withdraw all your money, stash it under your pillow and go and live your life with some Tibetan Monks. If it weren’t for Margot Robbie explaining things, you’d damn near need an economics degree to totally understand The Big Short. It’s a frustrating – yet powerful – movie with notable performances from Christian Bale and Steve Carell. It all ends on a chilling note and you will be left second guessing the pillars of capitalism and its downfalls.
Dallas Buyers Club
Alright, alright, alright. If you ever wanted to see Matthew McConaughey depict a rather unlikable protagonist with HIV, this is your film. Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 biopic depicting the story of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient diagnosed in the 1980s when AIDS was just a ‘gay cancer’ or one that only ‘queers’ got. Woodroof – in the film anyway – has to come to grips with this ‘gay cancer’ and his masculine lifestyle of bullriding, losing his friends and accepting the HIV community who have taken him in.
This was a film 21 years in the making, when screenwriter Craig Borten interviewed the real life Woodroof in 1992, and polished the script in 2000 with cowriter Melisa Wallack. Arguably the best performance in the film is by Jared Leto who plays transsexual AIDS patient ‘Rayon’. The film can be difficult to watch at times, and there is not exactly a happy ending, so sit down and be prepared for a reality hit.
If you didn’t get to see Dunkirk in the cinema, then you’ll probably never see this movie in full glory. While still a great film in its own right, the presence on a huge screen just cannot be denied. Dunkirk details the evacuation at, well… Dunkirk… which is a legendary tale in British and World War II folklore. Shot in 70mm film with Christopher Nolan at the helm, Dunkirk is sparse in dialogue and linear story progression. Those looking for a ho-hum movie to just sit down and enjoy may want to look elsewhere.
Dunkirk is basically a two-hour tense scene, shot from three different non-linear storylines for a bit of variety. In the cinema, you felt as if you were on the beaches – the gunshots are loud, the whir of the German planes are terrifying and the anxiety is excruciating. Watch this on the biggest and best home theatre system you can get access to – you deserve it.
Good Will Hunting
If you haven’t got a sense that this author likes films set in Boston yet, then we’ve got news for you. Good Will Hunting is another all-time favourite that stars Matt Damon as a fairly rebellious and reluctant genius roughhead from South Boston. Will Hunting (Damon) wants to just lead a normal life like his friends but his genius is inescapable. Will’s life ebbs and flows as he largely avoids confronting his genius, until he meets a girl and fatherly figure. His love interest is played by Minnie Driver, whose oddball charm is irresistible.
The most standout performer, however, is the late, great Robin Williams, whose character is a tortured-soul type psychologist who is frustrated by Will and wants to help him out. Good Will Hunting will have you nearly crying and then laughing, tugging at your heart strings until it ends on a cheeky note. It’s one of Williams’ finest performances ever, and the film cements his legacy as one of America’s greatest actors.
Icarus is a straight-to-Netflix documentary film fresh from 2017. It is directed by Bryan Fogel, himself an amateur cyclist exploring doping and how it is so prevalent in cycling – even amateur cycling. This film gets straight to the nitty gritty, and Fogel himself experiments with PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) while training for a big race to see if he could pass a doping test. In his travels, he happens upon an international doping scandal, which then sets the movie and the world of athletics alight. This is an honest take on doping in sports, and to have such a ‘Ground Zero’ approach to the topic is rare.
The Imitation Game
Seriously, another biopic?! Okay, they’re so good. Ever heard of Alan Turing? Maybe not. He tops lists for the most important British people of all time, but chances are if you were around before the 1990s you wouldn’t have heard his name. That’s because his job was classified, as he was tasked with cracking encrypted German communications in WW2 at a secret location in England… it’s called Bletchley Park – you now may have heard of it.
This hard task leads to him – along with a band of others – to decrypt the ‘Enigma’ code using a newly invented codebreaker called Christopher. This enabled Allied forces to decipher where German armed forces were going to strike next, and to put a stop to it. This had a major effect on the outcome of WW2 but was classified for so long. The Imitation Game is a great movie to watch that’s easily digestable on a Friday night. Settle in and grab the popcorn.
Despite what the trailer above may lead you to believe, this is not exactly an uplifting film. In one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s most memorable performances, Nightcrawler follows Louis Bloom, a sociopathic yet weirdly charming guy out to find his niche in Los Angeles. He discovers ‘stringing’ – a quasi-journalism group of contractors who prowl the LA streets at night to be first to shoot car wrecks, robberies, shootings and more. They then sell this footage to mainstream news media. Except, how far is too far? Where does the line of morals and ethics get crossed? Nightcrawler is shot in glittering form, showing off the beauty and ugliness of Los Angeles and sheds a light on a profession that shines when there is no light.
We’ll be honest, this movie can be a hard slog. The Revenant is a semi-biographical film and is classified as an ‘epic western’. It certainly is epic. In the early 1800s much of America’s west was untamed and was largely run by Native American tribes who were slowly dying out due to western colonisation.
It was a rough time for almost anyone in the west, let alone Hugh Glass – Leonardo DiCaprio – who guides trappers through rough untamed wilderness before he himself is attacked by a bear. The trappers decide to ditch him, and what follows is a monumental film about Glass’s navigation back through the wilderness and to camp. It’s a two-and-a-half hour epic about vengeance and resilience. It’s also very bloody, graphic and… unforgettable.
Catholics look away, this film may trigger. Spotlight details the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists from the Boston Globe who were among the first to crack the Catholic Church cover-up of paedophile priests in the Boston area. It is based on the book ‘Betrayal’ written by the very same journalists, and stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber. Spotlight is a methodical portrayal of how these Globe journalists uncovered the seedy underbelly of the Catholic Church and its all-knowing power in the Boston area. It’s not exactly an easy watch as the film tends to shy away from sensationalism, but it does leave you with a sense of uneasiness, especially when the credits roll and you realise many Dioceses in Australia were also found to contain ‘bad apples’.
What happens when some geese fly through your plane’s engines? Long story short it’s not good. Here we have Tom Hanks playing Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, a fairly regular man thrust into an extraordinary situation. It’s based on the true events that happened on the Hudson River in 2009… you may remember them. It doesn’t detail in the plane landing so much as the scrutiny that followed Sully after. Could he have avoided the situation? Could he have made it to an airport? Whatever the story, everyone survived what otherwise would have been a disastrous plane crash, and Sully played a big part in it. Hanks is at his stoic best in this one.
What movie should I watch on Netflix?
While this list is incredibly subjective, we hope it gives you some idea as to what to watch next time you fire up Netflix. Though, it’s probably best to avoid watching most of these films on a stormy night alone, and they are best watched with the kids put to bed! Pairing your binge watching with a new unmetered internet plan may be an ideal way to get more ‘bang for buck’ and see your data go further. If you’ve got a spare weekend or three, these movies are well worth a look into. Fire up the telly, dim the lights and get comfy because you probably won’t want to move!