While there’s no substitute for the authentic cinema experience, Netflix has done a decent job appeasing film fans this year in lieu of the usual blockbuster offerings dominating the multiplex.
Major studios have opted to shuffle most of their biggest projects into 2021, when it is hoped that movie-going will bounce back to its former glory.
In the meantime, Netflix has been offering a variety of intriguing features, from Charlie Kaufman’s offbeat drama I’m Thinking of Ending Things to the action-packed thrills of Charlize Theron’s The Old Guard.
Most recently, the streamer has dropped The Trial of the Chicago 7, the latest factual thriller from acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, which tells a gripping true story that’s highly relevant to his day.
If you’re in the mood for something short-form, check out our handy collection of the best TV series on Netflix and discover your next binge-watch!
But if movie inspiration is definitely what you’re after, browse our list below and see what you fancy – and keep checking back here as we update this page regularly with the hottest picks.
Last updated 16th October 2020
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
This factual drama comes from acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose past work includes television series The West Wing and Mark Zuckerberg biopic The Social Network. Here, he turns his attention to a 1969 trial that dominated the US news cycle as it unfolded, charging seven anti-Vietnam War protestors with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots.
Originally planned for a cinema release before the coronavirus pandemic quashed those plans, The Trial of the Chicago 7 boasts a truly magnificent cast. Recent Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), Sacha Baron Cohen (The Spy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception), Michael Keaton (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) are among the names assembled, all of whom are on top form.
Packing some powerful messages that remain highly relevant to this day, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is another smart drama from Sorkin that is likely to be a major awards contender this year.
The Boys in the Band
Produced by Ryan Murphy and adapted from the acclaimed Broadway play from 2018 (itself a revival of a 1968 play), the onstage cast of The Boys in the Band reprise their roles as gay men living in 1960s New York City, as they celebrate the birthday of one of their own.
All the cast members are LGBTQ actors, including the likes of The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, American Crime Story actor Matt Bomer, and Girls star Andrew Rannells. Parsons plays the lead role, a gay Catholic screenwriter who is struggling to come to terms with his mortality, and whose old (straight) college friend drops in at the party unexpectedly.
David Attenborough: a Life on Our Planet (2020)
Iconic broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has released his most personal documentary to date, reflecting on his incredible career touring the planet and seeing the wonders that nature has to offer. But there’s an urgent message to the piece: drastic action is required if the human race is to avoid climate disaster.
This feature-length documentary film reveals just how much damage environments around the world have endured in recent years, while also offering intelligent ideas for how we can work with nature, rather than against it. Essential viewing from one of the all-time greats.
The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)
An African-American woman approaching middle age rediscovers her talent for rapping in the knockout debut of writer/director Radha Blank, who also stars. Beautifully shot in monochrome, the film follows Blank’s struggling playwright, who channels her frustrations into some sublime rhymes, , speaking her truth with lyrical aplomb and backed by the beats of collaborator D (Oswin Benjamin). Dodging cliché at every turn, Blank’s elegant, edgy film expertly challenges sexist and ageist assumptions while shining a light on patronising notions of cultural authenticity. The result is funny and formidably wise, and shows you really can be fresh at 40.
Enola Holmes (2020)
Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown is back on our screens as Sherlock Holmes’s sleuth younger sister in this brand-new Netflix Original, alongside the likes of Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin and Helena Bonham Carter.
Based on American author Nancy Springer’s novels of the same name, Enola Holmes stars Brown as the titular character, a smart and perceptive young woman who sets out to find her eccentric mother (Bonham Carter), who disappears on the morning of her 16th birthday.
While avoiding her strict older brothers, who try to place Enola in a finishing school for “proper” young ladies, the amateur detective finds herself becoming involved in a much bigger mystery surrounding fellow runaway Viscount Tewkesbury.
Featuring a star-studded cast, including Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw and Chewing Gum’s Susie Wokoma, this Netflix film isn’t one to miss, especially considering Henry Cavill’s “softer” take on the iconic Sherlock. And it’s proved a real hit with Netflix viewers already.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adapation) has established a track record as one of the most innovative writer/directors in Hollywood, and his latest – adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name – is a nightmare journey into the psyche of a young woman who is taken by her boyfriend to meet her family in a secluded farm.
With a terrific cast that includes Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis, this is about as unconventional as it gets – but will be sure to leave you both haunted and scratching your head…
The Old Guard (2020)
Charlize Theron stars in this fantasy flick about a group of immortal warriors who have been fighting covert wars in humanity’s best interest for hundreds of years. But with a sharp rise in surveillance over the past few decades, their activities are becoming harder to cover up and they soon become the target of a ruthless businessman wishing to harness the secret behind their eternal life.
While not revolutionary, The Old Guard is a highly entertaining and stylishly executed film, with some excellent action sequences that showcase Theron at her very best. The cast also includes KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange) and Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin).
The Social Network (2010)
This hit drama from prolific screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) was an awards frontrunner when it hit cinemas back in 2010, chronicling the troubled early years of a website that has transformed the modern world: Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, who begins the film by creating a site that spreads like wildfire across his college campus.
It’s enough to get the attention of investors looking to muscle their way into the online world. The Social Network is an excellent and illuminating feature, packing a standout performance from Andrew Garfield as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Listen out for the killer score from Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
This Netflix action movie, released back in April, proved so popular that a second instalment is already in the works. From first-time feature director Sam Hargrave, with Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Antony Russo serving as executive producers (and Joe also having written the script), Extraction stars Thor’s Chris Hemsworth and tells the story of black-market mercenary Tyler Rake, who is sent to Bangladesh to rescue the kidnapped son of a drug lord. It’s tense, well paced, a solid star vehicle for Hemsworth and contains just the right amount of genuinely exciting action to keep most viewers firmly glued to their seats.
Captain Marvel star Brie Larson broke out in this acclaimed drama that tells the harrowing story of a woman and her five-year-old son, who have been held captive for years in an isolated shed. They hatch a daring escape plan, which allows young Jack his first look at the outside world, but integrating into society after such a traumatic childhood will be no easy task.
Larson gives a powerhouse performance in the lead role, earning an Academy Award for her performance, while young Jacob Tremblay is equally heartbreaking in his feature debut. Room was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who went on to direct BBC Three’s Normal People, so it’s no surprise how well it juggles heartfelt scenes and hard-hitting drama.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
The latest Spike Lee joint seems to have flown under the radar somewhat, but that’s a crying shame as it truly is a superb and timely watch.
Da 5 Bloods follows a group of Vietnam war veterans as they return to the country in the present day, searching for the remains of their fallen commander and the treasure he left behind. It’s an emotional journey that will see them confront their traumatic memories of the brutal conflict and the men it turned them into, while also exploring broader themes about the experiences of black people in the United States.
Delroy Lindo (The Good Fight), Clarke Peters (The Wire), Norm Lewis (Scandal), Isiah Whitlock Jr (BlacKkKlansman) and the late and much-missed Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) play the original Bloods, with Jonathan Majors representing the next generation. It’s a fantastic ensemble cast that provide strong performances across the board, some of which could well be recognised during this year’s awards season – so get ahead of the curve and watch Da 5 Bloods now.
Marriage Story (2019)
On the face of it, Marriage Story shouldn’t be as an enjoyable watch as it is, given that it’s about a relationship falling apart and all the emotions that come with that. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play the couple who decide to get divorced in this award-winning masterpiece from writer/director Noah Baumbach and put in some of the best performances of their career, which really deserved more award attention than they got.
It will make you laugh. It will make you smile. And if you are married, it will make you pray that you never get divorced…
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
A sweet, precisely executed romcom, which serves as an homage to the best films of the genre from the 1980s and 90s. Lana Condor stars as Laura Jean Covey, a Korean-American high-schooler whose world is turned upside-down when a box of private love letters that she penned to her crushes is distributed to its intended recipients. Based on the YA trilogy by Jenny Han, it became one of Netflix’s most successful original films in 2018. Watch out for a break-out performance from mini Mark Ruffalo, Noah Centineo (as Peter Kavinsky).
The Irishman (2019)
A passion project long in the making, Netflix’s The Irishman sees director Martin Scorsese reunited with Robert De Niro for their ninth collaboration. The gangster biopic centres on Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro), who recalls his involvement in the disappearance of his longtime friend Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino). The film was constantly in the news up to its release; from its CGI de-aging used on De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci, to the sheer unwieldy length of this epic (it’s a whopping 3 hours 30 minutes, so you’ll need plenty of popcorn).
Former Spooks actor David Oyelowo was robbed of the best actor Oscar in 2015, not even getting a nomination, for his stoutly convincing and multilayered turn as civil rights legend Martin Luther King. Director Ava DuVernay’s (The 13th, When They See Us) heartfelt tribute concentrates on Dr King’s marches in Alabama in 1965, with Tom Wilkinson anything but a caricature as President Johnson. Oprah Winfrey also appears as Annie Lee Cooper, whose attempts to register to vote are quashed by an official.
Dr King’s unshakeable belief that peaceful protest has the power to change lives packs a serious punch, as does John Legend and Common’s anthemic, Oscar-winning theme song, Glory.
It’s Marvel – but not as we know it – as Ryan Reynolds’s sweary, lairy, kick-ass avenger gives the X-Men series an X-rated shake-up in this oddball spin-off.
He stalks the Marvel universe but, as the man himself tells us time and again, Deadpool is no hero – he has the super strength, just not the mind-set. There’s no doubting that Ryan Reynolds is in his element, cracking wise as well as knocking heads together with a delicious dark sense of humour.
Reynolds spent years trying to persuade studio suits to give this movie the green light, his character having made a brief appearance in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. For them, it’s a dicey proposition because it so relentlessly (and refreshingly) mocks the superhero ethos that has made Marvel billions, regularly breaking the fourth wall to bring the audience in on the joke.
Christopher Nolan’s latest offering Tenet has recently been wowing – and confusing – cinema-goers in equal measure, and Inception is another of the director’s mind-bending movies. It really does have the capacity to make your brain hurt, so you’ll need to remove all distractions.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a talented thief uses hi-tech devices to enter other people’s dreams so he can steal their secrets. An industrialist hires him to perform a far more challenging job – to implant an idea into a corporate heir’s mind, so he will think it is his own. However, the mission is compromised by the thief’s own troubled psyche…
Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy also feature in the all-star cast.
Following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the world, Netflix recently made racial inequality documentary 13th free to watch to non-Netflix subscribers, which has seen a 4,000% increase in streams.
The title of this potent film refers to the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” “Punishment for crime” is the key qualifier here, as Ava DuVernay’s (When They See Us) documentary explores the injustices at the heart of America’s penal system.
13th secured Netflix its first BAFTA.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
As movie scripts go, few can be more bizarre than that penned by Charlie Kauffman for this 1999 film, which sees a struggling puppeteer Craig Schwartz find a secret passage that leads directly to the inside of John Malkovich’s head. The film, directed by Spike Jonze, is packed with irreverence and more than its fair share of offbeat humour, and was a huge critical success on its release.
Following his discovery, Craig and his attractive co-worker Maxine begin a business that allows people the chance to also experience the inside of Malkovich’s head, and the two strike up a relationship that also involves Craig’s restless wife. John Cusack, Catherine Keener and Cameron Diaz all star – in addition to Malkovich, who gamely plays himself.
..And if you’re a Spike Jonze fan, there’s good news for you – new to Netflix in October is this inventive comedy drama based on the BAFTA-winning screenplay by previous collaborator Charlie Kaufman. It features a marvellous double turn by Nicolas Cage, who plays both a neurotic screenwriter with an uphill struggle trying to adapt a book into a film script, and his interfering twin brother, who has decided to make a serial thriller of his own. Meryl Streep also stars, and clearly has a lot of fun.
Dark and hilarious in equal measure.
Wild at Heart (1990)
..And if you’re a Nicolas Cage fan, you’ll be pleased to know that Wild at Heart is available on Netflix. This film is every bit as crazy as you’d expect from a collaboration between David Lynch and Cage: a recently released convict and his girlfriend Lula (Laura Dern) rush through the Deep South as they are pursued by a range of bad guys set upon them by Lula’s disapproving mother.
All of Lynch’s usual quirks are present in much force. The film is packed with eccentric characters, unusual visuals and a hypnotic soundtrack as well as all sorts of bizarre and unexplained detours. An impressive ensemble cast includes a slew of Lynch favourites, including Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie and Jack Nance, while Willem Dafoe makes a memorable appearance as a crazed villain.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
The third entry in Keanu Reeves’s action saga doesn’t disappoint, delivering yet more brutal fights and ambitious stunts, while also expanding the world of the title hitman.
As the entire assassin underworld turns on him, Wick will have to use every weapon in his arsenal if he has any hope of survival, which includes calling in a favour from an old friend: Halle Berry’s Sofia (and her particularly deadly pets). Quite possibly the pinnacle of modern action film-making.
The Martian (2015)
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in this sci-fi thriller. A manned mission to Mars is abruptly abandoned and one crew member (Damon) is left for dead. But he survives and discovers it will take many years to get home but he only has enough resources for one month…
At times, The Martian can be really breathless and it will leave you racing towards the end to see if our plucky hero can make it home. And director Ridley Scott brings vivid life to the drama.
Uncut Gems (2020)
We should probably start by warning you you’re in for a tense and stressful two hours if you choose to watch Uncut Gems in one sitting. The Safdie brothers’ (Good Time) film takes funnyman Adam Sandler and turns him into a New York City jeweller risking everything to banish his debts and escape the collectors after him. Sandler is unrecognisable, but that’s no bad thing. We’d go as far as to say he was robbed this award season.
A recent addition to Netflix, Spike Lee here is in raging and righteous form as he relays the extraordinary story of Ron Stallworth, the black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1972 with the assistance of Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman. As playful as it is political, the vibe is authentic, the period detail tasty, yet BlacKkKlansman burns with contemporary anger and concludes on an impossibly affecting, painfully relevant note.
Winners of the best adapted screenplay gongs at both the Oscars and the BAFTAs in 2019.
Fighting with My Family (2019)
This feel-good charmer following the true journey of superstar wrestler Paige (Florence Pugh) from her humble beginnings in Norwich to becoming the youngest ever Divas Champion is an unqualified smackdown success. Written/directed by Stephen Merchant and executive produced by Dwayne Johnson, it’s an unapologetic soap opera in spandex…
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
While the seventh Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movie may be delayed due to COVID-19, in the meantime we can reminisce with Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, as they (mostly Cruise) defy the laws of gravity as they attempt to save a mission that’s gone wrong – and prevent a nuclear disaster – in 2018 instalment Mission: Impossible Fallout.
The film, which also co-stars Rebecca Ferguson and Superman actor Henry Cavill, includes Cruise’s real-life death-defying jump from one building to another in London – which saw the actor break his ankle.
Prepare to cry if you watch this heartwarming tale from Bong Joon-Ho (if he sounds familiar, that’s because he dominated the most recent award season with his latest film Parasite).
Okja is a slightly odd story following a girl and her best friend, a large, weird animal called Okja. Soon the pair find themselves battling the CEO (Tilda Swinton) of a huge company who wants to take Okja away. There’s a clear agenda underlying the story, animal activism is a strain throughout, and the film doesn’t shy away from that. Joon-Ho’s wonderfully refreshing odd style blends with slight preachy notes, but it comes together to give you a beautiful film.
The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
Netflix recently added all five films from the franchise – Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn: Part One and Breaking Dawn Part Two – based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling fantasy novel series to its service.
Meyer claims that the idea for the Twilight quartet came to her in a dream about a human girl and a vampire boy whose love was forbidden. They became flesh as Washington-state high-schooler Bella Swan (immortalised here by Kristen Stewart) and more-than-a-century-old (but forever trapped in the body of a 17-year-old) hunk Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). And their on-off relationship lies at the heart of a saga whose books have sold well over 100 million copies – the majority to “young adults” (as publishers respectfully categorise hormonal teens) – which in turn became a hugely successful film series.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
This was meant to be six individual episodes for a Netflix TV series, but when you get movie legends the Coen brothers you kinda have to see where they take you. The result is this, an elegant anthology of frontier tales that affectionately celebrates the Western in inimitable style. Although the opening comic yarn starring Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Syriana) as a singing prairie hero in a white Stetson gives the film its potentially misleading title, it’s hardly typical of what follows, but then again nothing is…
In the late 1960s and early 70s, the Zodiac Killer terrorised San Francisco and taunted the police and media with cryptic messages. New to Netflix this month is director David Fincher’s intricate take on the story.
Focusing on the police and press investigation into the murders, Fincher’s film follows cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), flamboyant reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) and grizzled police inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) as they try to crack the case. It’s over two-and-a-half hours of obsessively gritty procedure that really finds the drama in the details.
Mamma Mia! (2008) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Admittedly, it helps to be an Abba fan watching these movies, but you’d have to have a heart of stone to fail to be touched by the heartwarming, feel-good messages. And the starry cast sing to varying degrees of success, which is all part of the fun.
Meryl Streep plays ageing rock chick-turned-hotel owner Donna, whose daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married on the Greek island where they live. But the wedding is thrown into chaos when three of Donna’s ex-lovers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) turn up. Each has a case for being Sophie’s father, but only one stakes a claim on Donna’s heart.
The original film was followed up ten years later by Here We Go Again!, which was recently added to Netflix. It follows a familiar fairy-tale formula, but it’s a musical worth taking a chance on….
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Few horror movies in recent times have petrified audiences quite as much as Ari Aster’s feature debut, which boasts an exceptional turn from Toni Collette in the lead role and some of the most memorable – and terrifying scenes – of all time.
The film is at once an exploration of grief, a discussion of the legacy of family and just a good old-fashioned horror movie, with a masterful command of mood and atmosphere. It draws on classics of the genre including Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Shining – and just a year later Aster would prove that he was by no means a one-hit wonder, writing and directing an arguably even greater horror movie in Midsommar.
Controversial and divisive, Annihilation had a rocky start in life. After struggling to find a distributor, Netflix picked up the international rights to Ex_Machina director Alex Garland’s film. The sci-fi/horror film is based on book series The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer and follows a group of scientists as they head into Area X, a quarantined area of the planet, where a lot of weird things have started happening. They have no idea what they’ll find, and they’re not all being honest as to why they’re going. Natalie Portman stars and puts in a convincing performance when everything around her is, well, beyond comprehension.
While it would be fair to say that Melissa McCarthy comedies are rather hit and miss, with noticeably more misses in recent years, Spy stands out as one of her rousing success stories. She teams up with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this story about a desk-bound CIA employee who is thrust into dangerous fieldwork when her partner is killed and many more active agents are put at risk. What follows is a truly hilarious take on a Mission: Impossible-style action flick, with McCarthy on top form as well as Jason Statham in a brilliantly utilised supporting role.
Director and screenwriter Dee Rees gathered together a potent cast, including singer/actress Mary J Blige, British star Carey Mulligan and rising Hollywood heavyweight Jason Mitchell, to tell the story of two families in 1940s rural America – one black, one white – who struggle to live and work together in post-Second World War America.
The movie created a lot of buzz at the time of release and was nominated for four Oscars, including best supporting actress for Blige. A moving and powerful exploration of bitter race relations, part of Netflix’s Black Lives Matter collection.
Demolition Man (1993)
Recently arrived on Netflix, this slick vision of the future comes pretty close to being Sylvester Stallone’s best ever film. Wisely keeping his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek, Stallone plays a maverick cop who is frozen alive in 1996 and held in cryonic suspension for a crime he did not commit. Decades later, he is defrosted to hunt down an old sparring partner, the spectacularly psychopathic Wesley Snipes, who has escaped from his deep frozen state and is creating havoc in the now crime-free Los Angeles (renamed San Angeles).
The writers have a lot of fun sending up modern-day political correctness in this caring vision of the future – violence, red meat and sex are among the items on the banned list – and director Marco Brambilla delivers the goods when it comes to the all-important action set pieces.
The Two Popes (2019)
Here’s a mouthwatering prospect: two veteran British thesps in a barnstorming, virtual two-hander based on a play by screenwriter Anthony McCarten.
Anthony Hopkins plays doubt-ridden, conservative Pope Benedict XVI as a wounded bear during his meeting with his reluctant and progressive successor Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) – later Pope Francis – at the former’s Italian retreat in 2013… The film was nominated for two Oscars.
This post-American Pie teen movie serves up all the essential elements – the high-school boys desperate to get laid; the embarrassing disasters that befall them on the way; boozy parties and unimpressed girls, etc – but does it with intelligent wit. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Eric (Michael Cera) are high schoolers who plan to provide booze for a party and thus ensure the gratitude (and sexual favours) of its female attendees. Sadly, an idiot friend going by the fake-ID pseudonym of “McLovin” and two utterly corrupt and drunken cops are among the characters that foil their plans…
If you’re in need of laughs – and who isn’t these days? – this rapier-sharp satire on the fashion industry from director/star Ben Stiller is a non-stop giggle from start to finish.
Stiller excels as dim male model Derek Zoolander, who is stunned to find his career going downhill thanks to the arrival of an equally vacuous rival (Owen Wilson) – but who fails to realise he is merely a pawn in a dangerous game of international espionage and world domination… Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Christine Taylor and David Duchovny also star.
The Nightingale (2018)
Jennifer Kent terrified millions with her feature directorial debut The Babadook in 2014 – and she returned four years later with something altogether different but no less remarkable.
The Nightingale – which stars Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin – tells a story set against the cruel backdrop of colonial atrocities in 1830s Tasmania, as a young Irish woman seeks revenge against a sadistic lieutenant who raped her and killed her husband and baby.
In doing so she teams up with a local Aboriginal tracker named Billy for help with navigation and protection, and although they bicker at first, the two bond over their shared mistreatment at the hands of their colonial oppressors. It’s a brutal, unflinching watch – but an extremely rewarding and unforgettable film.
La La Land (2016)
If ever there was a film to banish the blues, it’s La La Land. Writer/director Damien Chazelle’s toe-tapping follow-up to the Oscar-winning Whiplash sees him trade the abusive relationship between a hot-headed mentor and an aspiring drummer for the high and low notes of a love affair, played out against the backdrop of Tinseltown itself. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play antagonists-turned-lovers Mia and Sebastian – she’s a barista and jobbing actress; he’s a pianist eager to open a jazz club – with them both suffering countless setbacks as they strive to make it big. It may not have won the best picture Oscar – but it is guaranteed to make your heart soar.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Is there such a thing as “too British to fail”? The King’s Speech ticks every box in this regard: a true story involving royalty, period costume and war, with an “issue” at its heart, namely, reluctant King George VI’s stutter and his mastery of this speech impediment in time to unite the nation against Hitler in 1939.
The film earned a total of four golden Oscar statuettes (including best picture) and the highly coveted Academy Award for best actor for Colin Firth, to go along with a remarkable haul of seven BAFTAs. It cost around £10 million to make, which is small change in Hollywood blockbuster terms, and went on to notch up box-office receipts of more than £46 million in the UK and £85 million in the States – and that’s before DVD sales come into the equation. A right royal winner all round.
It’s almost impossible to pick the best Alfred Hitchcock movie – Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, the list goes on. Few of the great directors’ works, however, can be said to be quite on the same level as his 1958 thriller Vertigo – considered, with good reason, to be among the very best films of all time.
The film stars James Stewart as the retired, acrophobic Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, who is approached by an old acquaintance with a tantalising case that lures him out of retirement. Ferguson is hired to follow the acquaintance’s wife (Kim Novak), who is judged to have been behaving strangely, and he quickly becomes obsessed with the case – especially after the woman in question commits suicide – with dangerous consequences for himself.
State of Play (2009)
Political cover-ups in Washington, who’d have thought? Russell Crowe stars as dogged journalist Cal McAffrey seeking the truth about the death of a congressman’s (Ben Affleck) mistress in this slick adaptation of the 2003 BBC TV mini-series of the same name. The intricately woven plot sees McAffrey chasing down a high-ranking politician (an unusually sinister Jeff Daniels) and rankling his editor (a typically hard-nosed Helen Mirren).
Crowe took the role at the 11th hour, after Brad Pitt dropped out. He was actually making Robin Hood with Ridley Scott at the same time, so his time in make-up was spent mostly swapping between two very different hairstyles…
A Quiet Place (2018)
Part heartfelt Spielbergian family drama, part quirky Carpenter-esque creature feature, writer/director/star John Krasinski’s sensational shocker A Quiet Place was an instant sci-fi horror classic. A Quiet Place II may have been delayed thanks to coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the original starring Emily Blunt and Krasinski while we wait.
Regarded as one of the best horror movies in recent times, it became a smash hit when first released. In a post-apocalyptic very near future, blind insectoid monsters with super-sensitive hearing have wiped out most of humanity. A family has to survive along with a few survivors, whispering and using sign language to communicate as creatures chase them down solely on the noises they make. Expect tense situations, and a few heart-stopping moments in this must-see movie.
Groundhog Day (1993)
An oldie, but an oh-so-goodie… Director Harold Ramis joins forces once more with his fellow Ghostbuster Bill Murray to deliver one of the best comedies from the 1990s. Murray plays an obnoxious TV weatherman reporting on a small town’s annual festival who finds himself trapped in a day he will remember for the rest of his life because, unless he can find some answers, it will be the rest of his life.
So good, you’ll want to watch it again. And again. And again…
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Idris Elba is best known for star-making turns as a drug dealer in US TV series The Wire and as troubled cop John Luther in the acclaimed BBC drama, but this role is altogether more sinister. He plays a commander of child soldiers in West Africa for this extraordinary Netflix film from the director of the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, the movie brings to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country.
The Truman Show (1998)
There’s little question about it: this funny, thought-provoking genre-defying classic is perhaps Jim Carrey’s finest performance of the 1990s (sorry, Ace Ventura). However, that’s largely due to the film’s intriguing set-up: Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a seemingly everyday man who slowly learns his life is the subject of a live 24-hour reality show. And don’t worry: that’s not a major spoiler. It’s just the basic synopsis of the film, with the real surprise coming in what Carrey’s character does with the newfound knowledge.
Complete with stunning visuals, sharp dialogue and ahead-of-its-time satire on the reality TV industry, The Truman show represents a much-watch for film buffs and philosophers alike.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Based on Thomas Keneally’s bestseller Schindler’s Ark, Schlinder’s List is probably Steven Spielberg’s finest work and possibly the best feature about the Holocaust. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a chancer who inexplicably (the film doesn’t attempt to unravel his complexity) risked his own life to save those of 1,100 Jews working in his Krakow factory.
Superbly made with sentimentality mostly held at bay and splendidly played by Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes as the brutal Nazi commander, the film was the deserved winner of seven Oscars, including best picture and best director. The only splash of colour in the film is the red coat worn by a little girl whom we follow to her death.