Netflix has plenty of movies to watch but it’s nevertheless a real mixed bag. Sometimes finding the right film at the right time can seem like an impossible task. This is particularly the case now Netflix’s film rating system is a percentage instead of a numerical rating. So, to help you in this most important of responsibilities, we’ve compiled a list of the very best films on Netflix.
If you decide you’re in more of a TV mood, head over to our best Netflix TV series or picks of the best documentaries. We have a whole separate list of the best sci-fi movies, the best films on Amazon chief UK and the best Disney+ movies.
Bridesmaids pretty much redefined the chick flick when it was released in 2011, plunging buddy comedy-style humour into a thoroughly feminine setting. Think The Hangover, but with a lot more pink taffeta. Kristen Wiig plays Annie Walker, a down-on-her-luck single woman who is appointed maid of honour by her best friend Lilian (Maya Rudolph). It falls to Annie to organise dress fittings, hen dos and bridal showers, all the while attempting to corral Lilian’s motley crew of bridesmaids to great comic effect.
Commercial science fiction films could be stylish – like Blade Runner – but studios and filmmakers often focused on bringing science fiction elements to an otherwise human story. With The Matrix, released in 1999, the Wachowskis turned that on its head – depicting a dystopian future, where all of humanity had been retained in a simulated reality, being used as an energy source for artificially intelligent creatures. A hacker, Neo, is alerted to the falseness of the world they live in, and soon starts on a quest to uncover the truth. Several of the film’s stylistic inventions – such as the digital rain of the code that composes the Matrix – are iconic parts of current culture. The Matrix brought questions about existential philosophy and nihilism to the spotlight of the story and coupled them with intense action scenes that drew from martial arts and Japanese animation, to create an lasting cyberpunk sci-fi film that reverberates around current culture.
Based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, the memoirs of a mob fixer, The Irishman essentially roles as a Martin Scorsese greatest hits album, with standout performances from a digitally de-aged Robert de Niro and Al Pacino among other mythical actors from his past work. It had been retained in development hell for years before Netflix arrived with the willingness to give Scorsese the creative license (and the money) to make the movie his way. It’s perhaps too long, at three and a half hours, and that de-aging technology nevertheless needs a little improvement, but the ten Oscars nominations speak for themselves.
Zombie movies often take themselves too seriously – the Zombieland franchise definitely doesn’t fall into this category. Released in 2019, Zombieland: Doubletap is a sequel to the original horror-comedy that debuted all the way back in 2009. (Both are on Netflix currently). Doubletap picks up with all the original cast – Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone – reprising their roles and is set six years after their first meeting. The intervening years have seen the foursome become experts in seeing different types of zombies roaming the Earth, from the slow and dimwitted ‘Homers’ to the silent and deadly ‘Ninjas’. But when you’re some of the only people to have survived a rapidly spreading virus and its later zombie horde, time is always going to be against you. The group, joined by some new characters, find it harder than ever before to avoid becoming part of the undead.
Based on sci-fi author Ted Chiang’s short novella, Story of Your Life, this moving film is about language and discovery. It sees humanity struggling to make sense of strange, alien visitors arriving on Earth. At the centre of the film is linguist Louise edges (played by Amy Adams), whose attempts to commune with the aliens brings her unsettling visions of a daughter she doesn’t have. It’s moving, touching and fascinating stuff – and a fine addition to Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi catalogue to catch up with before the release of Dune.
Set in 1982 in Johannesburg, South Africa, an alien spaceship appears and a population of insect-like aliens are found aboard, before being banished to District 9 by the government. Three decades later, the district has become reviled by the locals, and increasing unrest leads the government to believe that the aliens should be moved. In the time of action of doing so, three escape, setting off another chain of events. Inspired by apartheid in South Africa, District 9’s visual effects were also designed to stimulate a kind of insect-like alien, but one that viewers would sympathise with as the film went on.
Howl’s Moving Castle
alternation by visionary director Hayao Miyazaki from a novel of the same name, Howl’s Moving Castle is his most overtly anti-war film. Set against the backdrop of a futile war fought using 20th century technology and magic, a young milliner is cursed by a witch and turned into an old woman. She heads to the countryside in search of a cure, where she encounters the eponymous castle and its owner, a troublesome wizard called Howl. Its combination of charming characters and luxurious animation is typical Ghibli, but it’s among Miyazaki’s darkest films, particularly in the imagery of huge swathes of planes dropping bombs on innocent civilians.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Ageing Western TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is struggling to find a steady acting job in between heavy drinking sessions with his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Stuck in his house in the Hollywood hills, He also happens to live next door to director Roman Polanski and his new wife, rising star Sharon Tate. In this film, which is essentially a tribute to the industry itself, Quentin Tarantino attempts to give one of the most shocking murders in Hollywood a different (however equally gruesome) ending. It’s a marmite movie: you’ll either love it or hate it. But a information of warning, if you have never heard of the Manson family, don’t bother watching.
There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest film follows the conflicts and parallels of religion and capitalism in turn of the century California. Daniel Day Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a sociopathic, strength-mad “oilman” who will stop at nothing to obtain more black gold. His opposition is Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano, the leader of an evangelical church located on oil high lands. They clash, one drinks the other’s milkshake. A contender for the best film of 21st century.
After more than 75 years as part of popular culture, surprise Woman finally got her big screen solo movie debut in 2017. Given DC Films’ poor track record with superhero movies of late – we’re looking at you Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman – there was genuine reason to worry if surprise Woman was going to be worth the screen time. Thankfully, Gal Gadot’s depiction of the superhero is a triumph.
Tom Hanks stars as Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberg, the pilot who in 2009 landed a passenger plane in New York’s Hudson River after both engines were disabled by a bird strike just 80 seconds after takeoff, ultimately saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board. Although the flight itself lasted just three minutes, Sully concentrates on the accident’s aftermath as Sully is brought before the National Transportation Safety Board to explain why he chose to ditch the plane in the river instead of attempting to land at either LaGuardia Airport in New York, or New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport.
Kong: Skull Island
A scientific team is escorted by the US military to survey the eponymous island, but the folk from monster wranglers Monarch know all too well what the real deal is. Chaos ensues with Tom Hiddlestone’s expert hunter joining Brie Larson’s photojournalist and a band of survivors as they try to escape the island. Samuel L. Jackson also stars as a soldier intent on revenge for his men. There’s nothing clever about Kong: Skull Island, but it’s an entertaining romp that’s easy to enjoy.
This acclaimed indie horror movie stars Florence Pugh as a troubled student who joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden to attend a festival that only happens every 90 years. The problem? The festival is a front for a pagan cult. It’s a deeply effective and unsettling film with none other than Jordan Peele, director of the smash hit Get Out, declaring it has “the most atrociously disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen on film”. Perfect date night material.
Grave of the Fireflies
Opening on an evening in 1945, shortly after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s most sombre films. Here, the animation coats the harrowing realism in a sorrowful, pastoral lament. This is a film about a world lost, of innocence lost, of pain and experiencing and love. It’s also a story about two children forced to eke out an existence in a harsh, unforgiving wasteland. For licensing reasons, Grave of the Fireflies isn’t coming to Netflix, but everyone should seek it out and put aside two hours for one of the most effective and affecting pieces of animation ever produced.
A woman wakes up in a cryonics cell, after a few weeks in suspended animation. She doesn’t remember her own name, age, or past except for a few disturbing flashbacks. But one thing she knows – courtesy of an bothersome talking AI – she has only just over an hour before she runs out of oxygen. Can she get out of the coffin-shaped chamber quickly enough? Oxygen is as claustrophobic a thriller as it gets, and manages to find that scarce sweet identify of being static and unnerving at once. And the actors’ strong performances help the film win the day, despite a ludicrously far-fetched ending.
Molly Bloom was set for a career as an Olympic skier before an accident sent her life off the rails. Fast forward a few years and Molly finds herself presiding over the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker games frequented by Hollywood celebrities, athletes and the Russian mafia. Then things start to separate. Jessica Chastain plays the rule role in a film based on the memoir of the real-life Bloom, while Aaron Sorkin writes and directs.
Directed by Park Chan-Wook – the man who “put South Korean cinema on the map” – this 2016 film has been widely acclaimed a masterpiece of its genre. An erotic psychological thriller set in Japanese-occupied Korea, a con man attempts to win the heart of an heiress with the help of her handmaiden. The film takes a dark turn, with outrageous twists and turns throughout. With feminist themes and serious artistic vision, The Handmaiden demonstrates the mesmerising talent of Park Chan-Wook.
The Death of Stalin
Stalin is dead and now every bad man going wants the Soviet Union’s top job. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, The Death of Stalin is a farcical and darkly comic take on the days, weeks and months after Stalin’s death. Based loosely on the real events, director Armando Iannucci brought his identifying characteristics style from The Thick of It, In the Loop and Veep to the story and assembled a stellar cast including Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs and Olga Kurylenko.
When people think of director Christopher Nolan, they tend to remember his blockbuster epics The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar, but his 2006 film The Prestige is worthy of equal acclaim. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as warring magicians in 19th century London, whose rivalry escalates to unhealthy and dangerous levels. There are great performances throughout, including a small and important one from David Bowie playing Nicola Tesla, as Nolan weaves a complicate, non-linear story, but the genius is this isn’t just a film about magic, the film itself is a magic trick. It’s a must watch for any Nolan fan and a useful touchstone for his later work.
News of the World
US civil war veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) doesn’t want to go home. Instead he spends his time moving from one town in Texas to the next and makes his way by reading people the news of the day. However, life is upturned when he runs into ten-year-old Kiowa person Johanna (Helena Zengel). Her people have been killed and her only living relatives are hundreds of miles away. Kidd takes the lost child under his wing and promises to deliver her to her family – only things aren’t quite as simple as they might seem.
Set against the backdrop of a Britain on the brink of war, The Dig chronicles one of the greatest archeological finds ever discovered in the Isles, the 1939 Sutton Hoo excavation. When wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires archeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up large mounds on her character, the pair make a startling discovery – a ship from the Dark Ages that turns out to be the burial site of someone of tremendous distinction. But as information of the treasure spreads, more high profile archeologists move in on Pretty and Brown’s find to take ownership. A slow build but worthy of the acclaim it’s received, The Dig is a dramatically looking, well-acted period drama about a much untold piece of history.
An complicate study of a cinematic masterpiece or two hours 11 minutes of Gary Oldman lying around and getting tanked in bed? Mank is both. After Roma, David Fincher gets his turn at a monochrome, prestige Netflick with this look at screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, otherwise known as the guy who wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Or, more precisely, as the film is interested in, for Orson Welles. All that old Hollywood fancy and snappy dialogue is here but Fincher’s also interested in movie moguls, fake news, the women behind the men and creative credit. And Amanda Seyfried is wonderful as actress Marion Davies. Oscar voters will be beside themselves.
There’s been an explosion of interest in true crime content in recent years, and David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac helped set the tone – based on the true story of the Zodiac killer, who sent cops cryptic clues after his crimes and evaded capture for decades. It stars Mark Ruffalo as the beleaguered police officer responsible for the investigation, and Jake Gyllenhaal as a newspaper cartoonist who gets drawn into the case.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by Martin Scorcese, The Wolf of Wall Street follows Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio), who starts as a stockbroker on the Wall Street trading floor in the late 80s. As he makes more money and his lifestyle races to catch up, he sets up a firm, Stratton Oakmont in the early 1990s and starts to swindle wealthy financiers out of their fortunes, already as the authorities close in. It’s all the more powerful because the film is based on the memoirs of the real-life Jordan Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker. With an all-star cast featuring DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street is ridiculous and exhilarating.
The Wandering Earth
The movie has been a colossal hit in China. The Wandering Earth earned more than $700 million (£550m) in the country’s box office and this prompted Netflix to break-up the rights to stream the sci-fi sensation internationally. The film sees a group of astronauts, sometime far into the future, attempting to guide the Earth away from the Sun, which is expanding into a red giant. The problem? Jupiter is also in the way. While the Earth is being steered by 10,000 fire-blowing engines that have been strapped to the surface, the humans nevertheless living on the planet must find a way to survive the ever-changing environmental conditions. Watch it here.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman’s final film before his untimely death is one set almost thoroughly in a sweaty recording studio in 1920s Chicago. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom centres around the mother of blues, played by Viola Davis, as she clashes with bandmates and white producers whilst trying to record an album. Davis delivers a stellar performance, perfectly reflecting the tensions of the time. But it’s Boseman who is completely electrifying on-screen, stealing every scene he’s in. The actor truly couldn’t have done any better for his final outing as trumpeter Levee.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you are not an American boomer, the juxtaposition of the city of Chicago and number seven might average little to you, but the formula stands for one of the causes célèbres of the Sixties. As anti-war, civil rights, and general hippie activists involved in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Seven (theoretically eight) were picked as functional scapegoats after the unrest was crushed at the behest of mayor Richard Daley, and arraigned before a estimate whose views and demeanour put him to the right of Vlad the Impaler. Happening at the very end of the LBJ era – with the US reeling from the Kennedys and King assassinations and Vietnam nevertheless devouring thousands of youths – the trial came to encapsulate, in a pithy courtroom-drama formula, the tensions tearing the country’s social fabric asunder. Director Aaron Sorkin takes a lot of liberties with historical facts (and leaves out some hilarious bits that would have made for a showstopper, such as poet Allen Ginsberg’s testimony) but The Trial of the Chicago 7 generally succeeds in conveying the sense of generational score-settling the court battle came to signify – and boffo acting by Eddie Redmayne and (albeit laughingly miscast) Sacha Baron Cohen seal this as a nice watch.
Yes, it’s however another take on Sherlock Holmes, but this time the brooding detective takes a backseat as the plot focuses on his teenage sister Enola, played by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown. Faced with her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Enola goes to London in an attempt to track her down – while running away from other Holmes brother Mycroft and his threats of boarding school. It’s a jaunty, family-friendly adventure with some fun action scenes and a feel-good, if rather un-nuanced, moral. Henry Cavill’s Sherlock is a man of few words and many meaningful looks, while Helena Bonham Carter makes for a lively and unconventional mother figure. The film seems to wholeheartedly embrace its tropes instead of getting too mired down in them, and the costumes and locations make for very enjoyable viewing.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Much like his past films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Charlie Kaufman has produced quite the head spinner with his latest Netflix drama, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Lucy (Jessie Buckley) is traveling with boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents for the first time at their secluded farmhouse, but all the while Lucy narrates her desire to end things with Jake, and questions why she’s going on this trip in the first place. Queue an incredibly uncomfortable dinner with parents Toni Collette and David Thewlis (both excellent) and a confusing journey that flits by the time. It should be noted that you simply won’t understand all (or frankly, any) of the elements of this mind-bending film, it really should be accompanied by a YouTube video with ‘ENDING EXPLAINED’ in the title. But once you get all the answers it’s hard not to admire and appreciate the complexities of loss and loneliness Kaufman has imbued in this drama.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
On paper, The Peanut Butter Falcon looks like a sickeningly schmaltzy film. Zack Gottsagen plays Zak, a young man with Down’s syndrome who busts out of the care home he has found himself in to pursue his dream of attending a wrestling school run by his hero. Along the way, he runs into Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) who is escaping from his own sad backstory, and the pair buddy up to take a raft trip along North Carolina’s Outer edges. The powerful chemistry between the two leads elevates this film far above its cheesy road-trip roots and the swampy hinterland provides a sweat-drenched backdrop to the action as Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) follows hot on Zak’s trail. The rule role was written for Gottsagen, who delivers a persuasive central performance that turns this dramedy into a something far more emotionally engaging.
The Last Samurai
Former US army captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) regrets taking on the responsibility for training the newly produced Imperial Japanese Army when he is captured during its first battle. But instead of killing Algren, his samurai capturers spare his life and send him to live in their village. Over time Algren earns the respect of the samurai and comes to understand their way of life. He becomes a staunch defender of Japanese tradition and rallies against attempts to radically modernise society by standing alongside samurai soldiers in battle.
The Old Guard
Netflix’s The Old Guard is breaking records – fast. It’s one of the streaming service’s most watched original films ever, with it reaching a whopping 72 million households in its first four weeks. But just how good of a watch is it? Charlize Theron leads a group of immortal mercenaries who use their self-healing powers to help those in need. But when a new immortal joins their crew, they find themselves being chased down by scientists who want to experiment on them. The Old Guard’s action scenes are its strongest, Theron and new recruit KiKi Layne have some serious fun dishing out and taking their fair proportion of hits. So though it may not be especially original in its plot, The Old Guard is a substantial action film that certainly entertains.
You can’t look away but you can’t look. Alejandro Landes’ Monos is about as far as you can get from a ‘Netflick’. It’s a frenetic war thriller about a cult of guerrilla child soldiers in Colombia that’s as unsettling as that description indicates. There’s argue over an inner allegory but just know there’s edge of your seat hostage and rebellion plots and some dramatically mountaintop and jungle visuals. But most of all: the teens are terrifying.
We know what you’re thinking: Netflix commissioned a bunch of short films in lockdown, avoid at all costs. Well, we couldn’t make it all the way by the Kristen Stewart entry – seemingly an homage to Personal Shopper – but a few of the 7 to 11 minute shorts are just perfect. Pablo Larrain’s nursing-home-speed film is hilarious, Maggie Gyllenhaal directs her husband Peter Sarsgaard to sci-fi weirdness in the woods, Ana Lily Amarpour shows us locked down LA and Paolo Sorrentino somehow manages to unprotected to his identifying characteristics melancholy, humour and majesty with figurines of the Pope and the Queen placed around his house.
They Are Everywhere (Ils sont partout)
In this two-hour-long satire, actor-director Yvan Attal stars as himself – a French Jew ranting to his psychoanalyst about his worries over France’s creeping antisemitism. The film’s structure is episodic: each antisemitic trope Attal complains about – Jews are too high, they “are everywhere”, they killed Jesus – is closest explored in a short comedic vignette. In one, for example, a Jew-hating politician (a veiled caricature of erstwhile far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen) learns that her husband is Jewish; in another, Israel’s Mossad ships a hitman, via time-machine, to dispatch baby Jesus and nip Christian antisemitism in the bud. Some gags land better than others, but the acting is uniformly good, and the film speaks to a very real argue currently current across La Manche.
Da 5 Bloods
After finding Oscar success with BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee is back with an already more powerful, violent, anguished take on another aspect of America’s history with racial injustice. This time we’re in Vietnam, where four black veterans have returned to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and a gold fortune that they left behind. The film is a multi-layered examination of the racism suffered by the black soldiers who were were defending a country that simply did not value their lives and the brutality the Vietnamese people were unprotected to in the long, painful and as it’s known as in the film, American War. As you would expect, a film that focuses so closely on these difficult themes is no easy watch, and there are moments of intense brutality. But at the heart of Da 5 Bloods is an incredibly human story of friendship, humanity and the inherited trauma our main characters experience. Delroy Lindo gives a particularly gut-wrenching performance; nevertheless heavy with the burden of fighting in the war, at the peak of his character’s disassociation with the world around him, Lindo gives an unforgettable Shakespearean-esque monologue that rocks you to your chief.
If you Google the cult typical that made Alicia Silverstone a 90s icon, the most-typed question is this: “Is Clueless a good movie?”. Let all doubt be cast aside – it really is. This loose interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma drops us into the life of spoiled 15-year-old Cher Horowitz (Silverstone); a privileged, beautiful and popular girl who seemingly has it all. Armed with unspeakable wealth and privilege, her life is dominated by strength-shopping, cell phones and semi-successful matchmaking. Alongside her friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), she dominates her 90210-esque school with clichéd however humorous one-liners that have aged surprisingly well. When Cher gives grungy move student Tai (Brittany Murphy) a makeover, she triggers her own downfall. The film’s iconic wardrobe may have inspired decades of fact, but the quotes are just as noticable: “You are a snob and a half”, “Ugh, as if!” and “He does dress better than I do. What would I bring to the relationship?” will live on forever as internet gifs.
Every now and again a foreign film transcends its boundaries and becomes an international hit. Japanese animation Your Name isn’t quite Parasite, but Makoto Shinkai’s wistful melodrama about a teenage city boy and a country girl who magically switch bodies without warning was a surprise hit outside its native country, and a genuine occurrence within it. The girl in a boy’s body, boy in a girl’s body theme is played for some predictable (but effective) laughs and there’s an infectious feelgood energy throughout, already when events turn more serious. It’s worth watching to see there’s life beyond Miyazaki in Japan’s prodigious animation industry and while the themes and execution are quite different to the master’s, there’s no less joyful escapism. Predictably, there’s a western live action remake in the works, produced by J.J Abrams, but don’t let that deter you from watching the charming and fun original first.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki is a witch. She runs a delivery service. So starts and ends the plot to Kiki’s Delivery Service, a film that is perhaps one of the most joyous animations ever made. This is a coming of age film where complicate themes are handled with confidence and style. The animation is typical Studio Ghibli: high, detailed and fascinating, while the characters of Kiki, and her sarcastic cat Jiji, are impossible not to like. It’s the perfect slice of escapism.
Flight opens with one of the most spectacular air crash scenes ever put to film – it’s worth watching the first 15 minutes alone if you’ve never seen it. But what follows is equally worthy. Denzel Washington plays the genius pilot responsible for saving hundreds aboard his flight, but his predilection for booze and drugs is tearing his life apart and makes him a target for investigators. Washington excels as the arrogant, flawed pilot who is determined to avoid the truth about himself.
Almost all Studio Ghibli films are now obtainable to watch on Netflix, and Princess Mononoke should definitely be near the top of your list. Released in 1997, the film follows a young prince who is cursed by a demon boar and leaves his village to search for a cure — and try to find out what is causing upset to the forest and its creatures. His travels draw him into a conflict between the animals and spirits of the forest and the human inhabitants of a nearby mining town, with the eponymous princess existing somewhere between the two. Director Hayao Miyazaki is known for environmentalist themes, and Princess Mononoke explores the relationship between humans and the planet with a greater level of complexity than some of his other works. The film has an adult sensibility, with a fair amount violence and death, but there are plenty of cute animated creations too.
Mari Gilbert is at war with the police. Her daughter is missing and because of their bias against sex workers, they aren’t being of help. Mari decides to start her own investigation, which leads her to the discovery of more than a dozen unsolved murders of sex workers. She joins together with their families to start a campaign to make sure these girls aren’t forgotten, and she holds the police to account. Lost Girls is based on a tragic true story and shows how hard it is to get the police to help when they simply don’t want to listen to you.
The King’s Speech
Colin Firth plays a stutter-inclined King George VI in this heart-warming story of the monarch’s struggles to conquer being suddenly thrust into the limelight after the abdication of his older brother. Geoffrey Rush is electric as the King’s speech therapist, and the heart of the movie is in the interactions between the stiff, solemn royal and the loose, thespian Lionel Logue. The Crown has changed things, but in 2010 this level of insight into Britain’s ruling family was uncommon – and the film picked up four Oscar wins, including Best Picture.
The Two Popes
At first to peek briefly, The Two Popes is not a gripping proposition: a film where two very old men in dresses talk a lot, walk around a little bit, and then talk some more. But two top-notch performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins and a stellar script from Anthony McCarten turn this prosaic assumption into a film worth watching. Set in the wake of the Vatican leaks scandal and loosely inspired by true events it follows Cardinal Bergoglio as he tries to convince Pope Benedict XVI to accept his resignation. The two men couldn’t be more different – Benedict is an archconservative desperate to cling to tradition while Bergoglio is seen as a dangerous liberaliser who might erode the Church’s authority. While the two men battle out their differences, the future of Catholicism hangs in the balance.
If you’ve written off Adam Sandler as the doyen of crass, forgettable comedies then prepare to have your pigeonhole well and truly blown apart. The actor puts in a career-best performance as Howard Ratner, a charismatic, fast-talking New York jeweller who is certain he’s about to pull off the biggest deal of his life. All he needs is his precarious plan to go off without a hitch. What follows is a frenetic whirl of a film that careens deliciously between chaos and mirth, taking in an arresting film debut from former NBA player Kevin Garnett. You’ll finish the film depleted, entertained and exhilarated.
A Senegalese romance, a story of construction workers turned migrants and a paranormal revenge tale; Mati Diop’s genre-busting Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year. Netflix showed its impeccable taste in international films by picking it up. The first time characterize director takes her time as she follows seventeen year-old Ada, who is in love with Soulemaine – one of the workers at sea – but obliged to marry another man and Issa, a police officer who gets mixed up in the lives of Ada and the women left behind in Dakar. Diop uses genre tropes and traditional folklore to get under the skin of families, corruption and class in urban Senegal.
Don’t pay attention to the reviews – American Son is well worth a watch on a rainy afternoon when you can’t provide tickets to the theatre. This stage adaptation of a black mother’s anguish over her missing son has changed little from a traditional play: it is claustrophobically contained inside the waiting room of a police stop, which serves as the main setting for the show. Kerry Washington is masterful as Kendra, a mother openly desperate to find out where her 18 year old son is and confined at every turn by an openly racist police officer. It tackles segregation, racism, sexism and police brutality in one hour and 30 minutes in a way that will make your stomach churn. The film, like the play before it, generated a wealth of critics that felt its one observe of anger and sometimes laboured dialogue failed to adequately tackle modern day racism. Does it fail as an important look at race relations? Yes. But it provides plenty to think about in a way that sticks in your mind long after it’s over – and you’ll watch a play in the the best seat in the house.
Dolemite Is My Name
After the credits roll on Dolemite Is My Name, we guarantee you’ll be 10,000 times more likely to go out and stage a horndog nude photo shoot for your next cult comedy record. The only person having anywhere near as much fun as Eddie Murphy, playing real life club comedian/singer Rudy Ray Moore, is Wesley Snipes, goofing around as the actor-director D’Urvill Martin. Together with a madcap crew, they make a truly terrible 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu movie based on Moore’s pimp alter ego, Dolemite. A brash, OTT showbiz movie with a heart of gold, there’s shades of The Disaster Artist and music legend biopics. And with the cast flexing in Ruth Carter’s glorious costumes – the suits! – and a associate of triumphant sex and shoot out scenes, it’s a wild ride, whether you know the original story or not.
How did a Panamanian law firm orchestrate the biggest global tax evasion operation of all time? In The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh takes an incredibly dry (however important) real story and makes it into one of the weirdest films released in the last year. Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman play Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, the despicable scoundrels running a scandal-ridden Panamanian law firm as it slowly collapses. Meryl Streep plays a widow turned amateur detective whose husband could not collect insurance because it was tied to a shell company that doesn’t exist – then bizarrely dresses up in concealment as a Panamanian employee. If you don’t know about the scandal this film won’t help to explain it, but it’s certainly entertaining.
Things seem rosy for all of five minutes in Marriage Story, which follows the protracted and heartbreaking divorce of a theatre director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson). Driver and Johansson put on a masterclass in emotionally honest acting, so it’s little surprise the film has picked up nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress in addition as a Best Supporting Actress nod for Laura Dern and further nominations for Best Screenplay and Original Score.
A breakup movie that is really about the joy of female friendship and the pain of growing old, Someone Great is powered by the chemistry between its three rule actors: Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise. Rodriguez stars as Jenny, a journalist who simultaneously lands her dream job in San Francisco and breaks up with her boyfriend of nine years. To lift her out of her gloom, Jenny enlists her two best friends for one last adventure in New York City. Although the film sets itself up as a series of comic capers (like Superbad or Dazed and Confused), it really finds its heart in the relationship between the three leads and their mutual sustain as they attempt to muddle by life – it’s like picking up with the cast of Booksmart and finding out they’ve really gotten into drugs in the intervening 13 years.
Always Be My Maybe
Written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe tells the story of two inseparable childhood friends whose lives turn slightly dramatically apart after a grief-stricken rendezvous in their teenage years. Wong plays Sasha Tran, a superstar chef whose stratospheric career barely papers over the fractures in her faltering relationship. Park, meanwhile, plays Marcus Kim, whose ambitions have taken him no further than the local dive bar and his father’s air conditioning firm. Fate – and a bizarre cameo from Keanu Reeves – conspire to bring the two leads back together in a film that at long last lifts Asian Americans outside of Hollywood’s clichéd casting and into a thoughtful and hilarious romantic comedy.
Sport is really about data. That’s the view of baseball manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who can’t compete with the big budgets of competitor clubs. To add salt to his wounds, three of his best players have just moved to a competitor team. Instead of trying to raise more money, he decides to enhance his Oakland Athletics side using statistics instead of tradition wisdom. The movie, which was nominated for six Oscars including Best Actor and Best Picture, is based on the real-life story, and book, about the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
Beasts of No Nation
Only great things can come from the director of True Detectives, and with Beasts of No Nation Cary Fukunaga doesn’t disappoint. A powerful war drama film starring Idris Elba and shot in Ghana, it follows a young boy called Agu who lives in a small village, and who is forced to become a child soldier as his country is ripped apart by a brutal civil war. This is a poignant depiction of the devastation that war can bring to a family.
This is without doubt one of the best children’s films of the 1990s. Don’t agree? Stop reading. Matilda is a dark, humorous and touching adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Danny DeVito is at his ludicrous, comic best, while Mara Wilson is a perfect fit for the understated but mischievous rule role. If you watched this film as a kid, it’s a great trip down memory lane. And already if you’re a bit too old for that, it’s nevertheless a great family film today.
Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s newest release since Gravityin 2013, is very different from any film he’s made before. Set against the backdrop of unrest in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, the film follows Cleo (Yalitizio Aparicia), who works as a housekeeper for a young, well-off family. The specificity of the film arises from Cuaron’s direction, as the film is based on the life of the nanny who raised him, Libo, and much of the mis-en-scene in the film is truly from his childhood. While the film is in black and white, and thoroughly in Chilango Spanish, it’s incredibly moving and absorbing, especially given how gorgeous the cinematography and direction is. Fans of Cuaron who have watched Gravity or Children of Men might be surprised, but this side of Cuaron is worth watching, and Roma is already generating Oscars buzz.
A taut, clever crime thriller, Nightcrawler explores the world of ‘stringers’, freelance videographers who scour late night LA for violent events to film and then sell to local news TV stations. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou, who lucks into the trade and quickly learns the profits to be made, especially when he bends the law for juicier material. Desperate to satisfy need and ratings, a local morning news director (Rene Russo) doesn’t care how the footage is obtained so long as it’s good. An noticeable central performance from Gyllenhaal, who lost weight to portray the desperate Lou, drives the action forward and it features an early Hollywood turn up for Riz Ahmed as his sidekick, Rick.
Everyone in this period drama from director Dee Rees is trying to drag themselves out of the Mississippi mud, in one way or another. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) moves his young family to a farm on the Mississippi delta, although his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) is less than pleased by the news that he’s also bringing his horribly racist father to live with them too. The Jackson family are tenants on the farm, led by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) who hopes he can work his way out of sharecropping and own his own slice of land one day. When Hap’s son and Henry’s brother return to Mississippi from World War II, the two men find themselves locked in a struggle against the ugly oppression of Jim Crow America.
Writer and director Alex Garland won numerous plaudits for his directorial debut Ex Machina, including Oscar and BAFTA nominations for best original screenplay. Annihilation is his second characterize as a director and it’s another serious, enthralling sci-fi exploration that’s much better than its ‘straight to Netflix’ position would suggest.
Channelling a sci-fi horror vibe reminiscent of Soviet-era mind trip Stalker, Annihilation’s main antagonist is a slowly expanding zone called The Shimmer in which all life is undergoing rapid and inexplicable mutation. Natalie Portman travels with an all-female team of scientists to try and reach the centre of The Shimmer and understand what’s causing it, and what happened to her husband after his own journey into Area X. Cerebral and dream-like, it’s
The Fundamentals of Caring
This on-the road indie flick is many things at once. Based on a novel by Jonathan Evison, it’s heartwarming, humorous, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud hilarious. The Fundamentals of Caring is lifted with just the right balance of dark comedy and drama making it both a poignant story and an easy watch. Paul Rudd stars as beaten-down Ben who decides to go on a course to become a carer after divorcing his wife, and Trevor (Craig Roberts) is wry, hilarious and complicated as the teenager Rudd begins caring for. It’s uncommon to see disability presented in a way that feels honest without being afraid to address self-depreciation by comedy.
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