For the last few years, Netflix has been very well represented when it comes to Oscar nominations – and it looks like that isn’t about to change anytime soon.
One of the streamer’s big hopefuls this year is Jane Campion’s exceptional Western The Power of the Dog, which has recently arrived on the platform following a short theatrical run – and features a tremendous performance from Benedict Cumberbatch among others.
It follows other high-profile film releases in recent weeks such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Tick, Tick…BOOM!, starring Andrew Garfield as Rent creator Jonathan Larson, Rebecca Hall’s superb drama Passing, which stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga in a thought-provoking story about racial identity, and Jeymes Samuel’s bombastic Western The Harder They Fall, which features an incredibly starry line-up including the likes of Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors and Regina King.
Speaking of star-studded, one of the most impressive Hollywood casts of all time has been assembled for Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, which will arrive on the platform later this month and could prove to be a real awards player.
And the cast for recently released action flick Red Notice isn’t too shabby either – with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot teaming up for Netflix’s most expensive movie yet.
Netflix, of course, has long had a mix of exciting original films as well as older classics, so RadioTimes.com is here to save you from endlessly scrolling with recommendations to suit all.
If you still can’t find anything, take a look at the full list of Netflix secret codes, which help you unlock hidden movies and TV shows.
Updated 2nd December.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
It’s been over a decade since Jane Campion last released a feature film – although she did create acclaimed TV series Top of the Lake in that time – and The Power of the Dog is a brilliant return to moviemaking for the former Oscar winner. Equal parts Western and psychological thriller, the film is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, and deftly delves into issues including toxic masculinity and repressed homosexuality.
This is an impeccably crafted film, complete with a superb Jonny Greenwood score and a terrific cast – including a career-best turn from Benedict Cumberbatch as brutish rancher Phil Burbank and equally accomplished performances from Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. Expect the film to score at least a few Oscar nominations when the time comes, and don’t be too surprised to see some involved walking away with a golden statuette.
Tick, Tick…BOOM! (2021)
Lin-Manuel Miranda has already achieved monumental success as a writer, performer, composer and musician, but new film Tick, Tick…BOOM! marks new territory for the Hamilton creator – his first film as a director. Based on Rent composer Jonathan Larsen’s semi-autobiographical musical of the same name, the film essentially serves as a biopic of Larson’s life while he was writing his high concept sci-fi musical Superbia in between waiting tables at the Moondance Diner, and includes several catchy songs including acapella number Boho Days.
Andrew Garfield steals the show with an all-singing, all-dancing performance in the lead role, perfectly capturing the nervous energy of a man determined to write a masterwork before it’s too late, and is helped by some great supporting turns from the likes of Robin De Jesus as his best friend Michael and Alexandra Shipp as girlfriend Susan. And there are lots of special treats in store for Broadway fans – with a glut of stage legends making cameo appearances in the film, especially during the Stephen Sondheim-inspired number Sunday.
Red Notice (2021)
As you’d expect from a film headlined by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, Red Notice is a big deal for Netflix and the most expensive movie the streaming service has released – a gamble that paid off with the best ever opening day for a Netflix film. Red Notice follows stoic FBI agent John Hartley (Johnson) who is assigned to arrest wisecracking art thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds) for stealing one of Cleopatra’s bejeweled eggs. However the plan goes awry, and soon Hartley reluctantly decides to team up with Booth to capture notorious criminal The Bishop (Gadot) – cue plot twists, action set pieces and an awful lot of quips.
Johnson and Reynolds have gained a bit of a reputation for playing exaggerated versions of themselves in most movies, and that does not exactly change here – but when the results are this fun, it’s hard to complain. The more interesting turn however comes from Gadot, shedding her wholesome Wonder Woman image for a rare villain turn she clearly enjoyed playing, showcasing her action chops once again and delightfully smirking through every scene as stylish career criminal The Bishop. There’s little here that is particularly original or memorable, but the charisma of the three stars makes this an entertaining two hours.
BAFTA-winning actress Rebecca Hall makes her directorial debut with this thoughtful period drama, which is based on a 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. The story follows childhood friends who meet again later in life and discover they have taken radically different paths in life. Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) has stayed true to her African-American roots, while Clare Bellew (Ruth Negga) has taken steps to “pass” as a white woman, making their experiences in a deeply prejudiced society very different.
Passing has received acclaim from critics, some of whom pitch it as a major awards contender, with Hall praised for her delicate handling of a sensitive topic as both writer and director. Negga could be on track for her second Oscar nod following 2016’s Loving, while Tessa Thompson continues to balance bold independent work with her blockbuster appearances. The supporting cast includes Moonlight alum André Holland and True Blood’s Alexander Skårsgard. Netflix acquired the film after it generated serious buzz at the Sundance Film Festival – now you can find out why.
The Harder They Fall (2021)
The Harder They Fall was always bound to be a hit with one of the strongest casts of any movie this year. The star-studded line-up includes Jonathan Majors (Loki), Idris Elba (Luther), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta), Regina King (Watchmen), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), and Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) among others, teaming up for a Western revenge story with a distinctly modern feel to it.
The story kicks off as Nat Love (Majors) discovers his mortal enemy Rufus Buck (Elba) is being released from prison, bringing his gang together to track him down and seek vengeance for the murders of his parents many years earlier. However, Buck catches on to the plot and has allies of his own to fall back on, setting the two groups on a collision course that can only end in an epic confrontation.
Singer-songwriter and music producer Jeymes Samuel makes his directorial debut with The Harder They Fall, which features real historical figures as its main characters (albeit within the confines of a fictional story). The filmmaker wished to draw attention to the fact that Black cowboys did exist in the Old West, a fact that has been widely ignored by many earlier entries in the genre. The film’s glowing reviews suggest he has done to great success.
Army of Thieves (2021)
Army of the Dead got a lot of attention for its horror-heist mash-up – and now this spin-off is adding even more genres, mostly ditching the zombies but zeroing in on the safecracking for a rom-com heist caper that’s quite unlike anything out there. Army of Thieves is a prequel focusing on breakout fan-favourite Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), telling the story of how he went from an amateur safecracking enthusiast to the veteran heist legend we meet in Army of the Dead. This happens when the mysterious Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) recruits Ludwig to her criminal team who are aiming to break into three uncrackable safes – with Ludwig quite possibly unlocking the key to Gwendoline’s heart as well.
Horror fans may bemoan the lack of zombies, but Army of Thieves does manage to find the heart that its predecessor was lacking somewhat, with Schweighöfer’s enthusiasm spilling onto the screen as both the film’s star and director. The overseriousness of Army of the Dead is gone here, for a light, comical romp across Europe stuffed with gorgeous visuals, a surprisingly sweet love story and some well-used supporting characters. Especially as a prequel, you can likely already guess how the film ends from way off – but that doesn’t stop the film being a fun, engaging thrill ride.
The Trip (2021)
Not to be confused with the lighthearted sitcom of the same name starring Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, this Norwegian Netflix original is also a comedy – but in a darker and far, far more violent way. The Trip stars The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace and The Cloverfield Paradox’s Aksel Hennie as Lisa and Lars, a married couple who have hit a rough patch and head to a remote cabin to reconnect. However little do they know that each is planning to kill the other – until some surprise guests change the plan somewhat…
The Trip starts off somewhat like a black comedy version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith – but ends much more like a Quentin Tarantino movie. So there’s a warning there that this film is not for those averse to gore, with the film moving from absurd laugh-out-loud comedy to some truly gruesome violence to a macabre mix of both. But for those who can stomach it, The Trip is a wildly unpredictable rollercoaster ride with twists and turns that just keep on coming – with inventiveness flowing through the script (as well as the choice of weapons…).
The Forgotten Battle (2020)
The title may be a tad generic, but it nicely sums up the film’s premise – the lesser-known Battle of the Scheldt gets the big-screen treatment here, a campaign which proved key to supplying Allied forces and liberating Holland. However, rather than a straightforward military history lesson, The Forgotten Battle instead follows three different perspectives – a Zeeland resistance member, a British Allied pilot and a Dutch Axis soldier – and shows how their stories interweave until they fatefully collide at the titular battle.
One of the most expensive Dutch films of all time, The Forgotten Battle adds a fresh perspective to the established pantheon of American war films, humanising the war by keeping the focus at a micro level and highlighting the civilian cost. Harry Potter star Tom Felton will be the big-name star in The Forgotten Battle cast for UK audiences, but he’s only in a supporting role – it’s the Dutch cast who steal the show, with Susan Radder and Gijs Blom superb as two people on opposite sides of the war who have to make similarly difficult decisions. One of the most interesting war movies in a long time.
The Guilty (2021)
Helmed by Training Day director Antoine Fuqua from a script written by True Detective scribe Nick Pizzolatto, The Guilty has an awful lot going for it even before you get to the lead performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. A remake of the award-winning 2018 Danish film of the same name, The Guilty follows Joe Baylor, a troubled police officer who has been demoted to operator duty at an emergency call centre. One day he gets a call from a woman claiming to be kidnapped – and his efforts to save her will reveal that nothing is as it seems.
Films that mostly take place in one location following a single character require some seriously impressive acting to keep interest engaged – and Gyllenhaal is more than up to the job. Often relying on nothing but other actors’ voices to bounce off, Gyllenhaal takes the audience on a tense, taut and agonising thrill-ride, ramping up the suspense as Joe has nothing but a phone with which to save a woman’s life. Indeed a film focused on phone calls thankfully uses sound to chilling and creative effect, with the lack of visual aids only worsening our mental images of events – and playing a crucial role in the twists.
Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
We officially live in the era of soulless remakes and reboots – but then in 2017 something amazing happened when rebootquel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle delivered a film that updated the premise, added a healthy dose of charming humour and was arguably just as good as the original. The follow-up sees the four teenagers inexplicably return to the Jumanji game after teenager Spencer goes back in alone – however they are joined by two unwitting additions, as Spencer’s grandfather Eddie and his friend Milo are also sucked in.
Jumanji: The Next Level largely delivers more of the same, which is not necessarily a bad thing given the charisma of the cast who are armed with a similarly funny script. The film does freshen things up however with the additions of Danny Devito and Danny Glover as players, leading to The Rock and Kevin Hart doing their best impressions of the veteran actors – how good those impressions are is up for debate, but they do provide several of the film’s best moments and a fresh perspective to the Jumanji world. Plenty of body-swapping, new locations and impressive effects make this one of the better reboot series and video game-themed films out there – with a Jumanji 4 on the way.
Carlito’s Way (1994)
Perhaps Scarface is the Brian De Palma and Al Pacino collaboration which is the more well-known, but this later effort, released in 1993, is every bit as good – perhaps even better. Mixing suspense, engaging dialogue and some brilliant melodrama, Pacino stars as Carlito Brigante, a Puerto Rican criminal who hopes to go straight but finds it tricky to leave his criminal ways behind.
Sean Penn also turns in a wonderful performance as Carlito’s somewhat sleazy lawyer David Kleinfeld, while the supporting cast includes Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo and Luis Guzman. Despite initially receiving rather lukewarm reviews, the film has since emerged as one of the finest films of its era – and a key part of the gangster canon.
The Farewell (2019)
Lulu Wang’s terrific 2019 drama tells the poignant story of a young Chinese-American woman named Billi, who travels to China with her family to arrange a wedding before her elderly grandmother passes away. Billi is initially shocked to learn that the entire family apart from her grandmother herself is aware that her days are numbered, but soon finds herself reconnecting with her heritage in a way that frames the lie in a new light.
Off the back of acclaimed supporting roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, Awkwafina stars in the leading role – and she went on to become the first-ever woman of Asian descent to win a lead acting award at the Golden Globes for her performance. The film was billed as “based on an actual lie” and intelligently explores themes of family connections and rediscovering identity, while boasting some superb acting and a script that is equal parts funny and moving.
The holder of a record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles, there are few racing drivers more deserving of a documentary than German Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher. This Netflix documentary chronicles Schumacher’s rise to racing prominence, his widely reported skiing accident and the subsequent recovery process, supported with exclusive interviews and archival footage.
Interviewees include F1 icons such as Jean Todt, Bernie Ecclestone, Sebastian Vettel, Mika Häkkinen, Damon Hill, Flavio Briatore, and David Coulthard, who recount Schumacher’s career from his early karting days in Kerpen to his seventh world title in 2004, a record that has only recently been matched by Lewis Hamilton. However, what is most notable about Schumacher is that it is the first film supported by his family – and thus includes rare interviews with his wife, father and brother, revealing an intimate insight into his private life and showing a side of the man Schumacher is once he steps off the track.
Netflix has had success in the past with sporting documentaries such as Untold and The Last Dance – and Schumacher is an equally impressive must-watch for any sporting fan.
With the horrific 9/11 attacks now reaching their 20th anniversary, there have been quite a wealth of new releases focusing on the tragedy, but few are quite as hard-hitting as this dramatisation of real events. Worth follows lawyer Kenneth Feinberg as he is named lead of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and soon faces the indescribable task of determining the financial worth of a life in order to help bereaved families. However, it’s only when he butts heads with a widowed community organiser that he begins to understand the human cost of the tragedy, and is soon battling bureaucracy and politics to get victims the compensation they deserve.
The subject matter immediately saddles the film with dramatic weight and most importantly responsibility, but Worth thankfully manages to forgo most biopic pitfalls for a nuanced and complex take on a side of the disaster that is all too often forgotten. The film’s focus on people talking in rooms for extended scenes may rob the film of some of its power, but it also gives actors such as Amy Ryan, Stanley Tucci and, most notably, Michael Keaton to shine. It also allows for plenty of philosophical debate: what is the value of a human life?
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021)
Netflix has gone all-in on The Witcher franchise, commissioning not one, but two spin-offs ahead of the long-awaited and long-delayed The Witcher season two. Live-action spin-off series The Witcher: Blood Origin is still a while away, but this anime feature film has arrived relatively speedily – and will do more than sate fan’s appetites for more Witcher content. Nightmare of the Wolf tells the origin story of Geralt’s mentor Vesemir, rewinding to when he was a cocky young witcher enjoying the money and glory of his monster-hunting work. However when a strange new monster starts terrorising the kingdom, Vesemir must confront his dark past – and question what it really means to be a witcher.
Vesemir will appear as a wisened witcher-trainer in season two of the main show, but this spin-off provides a rare opportunity to see the Continent from a fresh perspective and delve deep into Vesemir’s character and indeed witchers themselves. Fans of the lore, in particular, will get a kick out of this film, which shows us in detail how witchers are created and explores mages and their complex relationships with witchers. Viewers who never embraced the original Henry Cavill-led series to begin with will find little extra to entice their interest in this spin-off, but those with at least a passing knowledge of Strigas and Kikimoras will find a swashbuckling adventure well worth their time – along with wonderful animation and inventive action.
Castlevania fans in particular will enjoy this fellow Netflix anime, with the two projects sharing voice actors Theo James and Graham McTavish.
John David Washington’s career is only going up after starring in BlacKkKlansman and Tenet, and now the actor is headlining his second major Netflix movie after Malcolm & Marie (see below). Beckett follows Washington’s titular protagonist, an American tourist vacationing in Greece with his girlfriend. However after his involvement in a terrible accident, Beckett soon becomes the target of a manhunt – and must make it to the American embassy to clear his name as political unrest rises, the authorities close in and a dangerous conspiracy begins to unravel.
Despite a year of travel restrictions Beckett may just be enough to put you off foreign trips for life, as this effective political thriller brings great acting, propulsive energy and surprisingly good action to this story of a holiday from hell. Nevertheless Greece makes for a stunning backdrop to the many film’s many twists and turns, making the most of filming on location in Athens and a low budget for a film that harkens back to the international political thrillers of the ’70s. A great cast helps too, with Washington joined by awards darling Alicia Vikander as girlfriend April and Logan’s Boyd Holbrook as CIA employee Stephen.
It’s been a big year for Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has been working non-stop with his first musical In The Heights receiving a big-screen adaptation, as well as his first-ever animated film Vivo also seeing a Netflix release. Also the first musical from Sony Pictures Animation, the film tells the story of Vivo, a music-loving kinkajou voiced by Miranda who must deliver a long-lost love song to a famous singer on behalf of his owner.
Despite being the colourful and comical adventure one would expect from a family animation, Vivo is not afraid to sensitively touch upon difficult topics such as death and loss early on. It’s far from a gloomy affair however – much like Coco, Vivo uses music to explore themes such as family, fatality and local cultural traditions, with Miranda’s always consistent originals songs and a dazzlingly bright depiction of Cuba making this a charming and delightful adventure for all ages.
It’s yet another critical hit for Sony Pictures Animation – after years of struggling to compete with the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks, the studio has received consistent acclaim since scoring an Oscar win for the excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Vivo will be their third film for Netflix, following the similarly well-received Wish Dragon and The Mitchells vs. the Machines (also on our list – see below).
Despite being set over 40 years later, 2021’s Halloween Kills is stuffed with references to the original John Carpenter classic – and it’s not hard to see why. The 1978 Halloween practically invented the slasher genre, spawning a whole wave of imitators and establishing now common tropes such as a final girl surviving, POV shots from the killer’s perspective and a theme song for the masked murderer. While critically panned upon release, Halloween has since been re-evaluated as one of the best and most influential horror films of all time – and Jamie Lee Curtis has become just as iconic as Michael Myers himself, going down in history as one of the very first scream queens.
For the uninitiated, Halloween tells the saga of Michael Myers (Nick Castle), who murdered his sister as a child. Fifteen years later Myers escapes from custody – and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield to kill again, putting him on a fateful collision course with Laurie Strode (Curtis). The success of this first film has led to several sequels and reboots, the first four of which are also available on Netflix.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
A perfect horror-comedy for all the family whether it’s Halloween or not, Hotel Transylvania is now a full-on film series and one of Sony Pictures’ biggest franchises. This first film follows Dracula, who runs a high-end resort where monsters can escape persecution from humans. However a human boy finds his way in and falls for Dracula’s daughter Mavis – prompting the Count to go into full overprotective mode.
One of Adam Sandler’s better films, Hotel Transylvania is full of slapstick silliness for kids and also acts as a parody of the Universal Monsters for adults. A talented voice cast that also includes Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Steve Buscemi helps elevate the sweet-but-simplistic story, which all adds up to a rather pleasant 90 minutes especially if you have little ones to entertain. A third sequel, Hotel Transylvania 4, is due out in 2022.