Awards season is very much upon us – and once again Netflix has a host of original titles hoping to hit it big when it comes to nominations.
Among the frontrunners in the streamer's slate this year are Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut The Lost Daughter – which features a typically brilliant Olivia Colman performance – and Jane Campion's stunning Western The Power of the Dog, which could see a potential acting nod for Benedict Cumberbatch.
Meanwhile, all-star climate change satire Don't Look Up certainly has the public onside – becoming one of Netflix's most-watched films ever in spite of a rather muted critical reaction, and so shouldn't be counted out when it comes to awards.
It's also the time of year when we look forward to what else Netflix has to offer in the coming twelve months, and it looks set to be another busy one – with highlights including the Knives Out sequel and unconventional Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde.
Here, RadioTimes.com rescues you from endlessly scrolling, with Netflix recommendations to suit all.
You can also find the full list of Netflix secret codes, which help you unlock hidden movies and TV shows.
Updated 13th January.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Steve Martin enjoyed a brilliant return to form in 2021 with his role in the terrific comedy series Only Murders in the Building, and now one of his finest films has been added to Netflix in the shape of '80s comedy classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Written and directed by John Hughes, Martin stars as an increasingly stressed businessman who finds himself going on an unwanted road trip as he aims to get home in time for Thanksgiving. His trip is made all the more eventful when he crosses paths with a rather slobbish salesman – played by John Candy at his raucous best.
There are several exceptional comic set pieces scattered throughout the film – including Martin's now-iconic expletive-laden tirade at a car rental place and all sorts of brilliant slapstick scenes – but what really makes it work is its unashamedly sentimental heart. A bonafide comedy classic.
The Lost Daughter (2021)
Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an accomplished directorial debut with this brilliant adaptation of Elene Ferrante's novella of the same name – which finds a college professor reflecting on her past when she encounters a young mother struggling with her child while on holiday in Greece.
The performances across the board are sublime – with Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley particularly shining as older and younger versions of the lead character as she confronts the difficult choices she faced when raising her children Bianca and Martha.
With an intriguingly enigmatic ending that seems destined to provoke plenty of interesting discussions, The Lost Daughter could well be in contention to win some awards at this year's Oscars.
The Nest (2020)
This excellent drama from Martha Marcie May Marlene director Sean Durkin is one of the best new films released in the last few years – and has recently made its way onto Netflix.
Finding Jude Law and Carrie Coon at the top of their game, the film explores the fallout after an English man relocates his family from their American home to a grand country manor in his homeland, with it quickly coming apparent that his financial situation isn't nearly as rosy as he's made it appear.
At times, the film takes on the appearance of a ghost story as the family adjusts to life in their strange new home, and there are some truly haunting images in the final act which will live with you long after watching. Superbly directed and impeccably acted, this is a truly terrific film.
Don't Look Up (2021)
Netflix film Don’t Look Up by director Adam McKay (Anchorman) is a biting satire about the world's response when it faces an imminent apocalypse.
When Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence leading the Don’t Look Up cast) discovers a comet is on its way to Earth, her professor Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discovers it will wipe out most of life on Earth unless action is taken. However, US President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) is apathetic about tackling the crisis.
As our own Don’t Look Up review notes, the film "has all the sledgehammer subtlety you’d expect from an apocalyptic satire about a world-ending comet, but it does manage to deliver some good laughs – and enjoyable performances – along the way.”
The Hand of God (2021)
The latest film from esteemed Italian director Paolo Sorrentino is his most autobiographical work to date – telling the story of Fabietto, a teenager growing up in Naples during the 1980s.
In the first half, the film sketches a very realistic and hugely enjoyable portrait of adolescence, as we get to know Fabietto, his extended family, and their various eccentricities – but in the second half, the tone changes somewhat when a tragic event casts a dark cloud over Fabietto's life. Many aspects of the film are taken directly from Sorrentino's own life and as a result it is a film that feels intimate and personal, while there are several standout scenes throughout the runtime – including overt nods to master Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.
As the title would suggest, Argentine footballing legend Diego Maradona also has a key role to play in the narrative – although for the most part the Napoli superstar only appears in the background, as a focal point for Fabietto's conversations with those around him.
The Unforgivable (2021)
The Unforgivable has already gripped the nation’s imagination, storming its way to the number one position on Netflix’s top 10 list over the weekend following its release on 10th December.
We might be counting down to Christmas, but don’t expect a festive movie with this December debut. The plot follows the plight of Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock), a woman released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering a police officer. Ruth sets out on a mission to reunite with her younger sister, but her plan risks being derailed when she’s hunted down by the son of the man she shot all those years ago. Vincent D'Onofrio stars as Ruth's lawyer, while Viola Davis plays the role of his wife.
Though Bullock’s character lacks nuance, the score, which comes courtesy of Hans Zimmer and David Fleming, does a good job at evoking a broader range of emotions. With few lighter moments, the film is certainly unrelenting, but if you're up for an emotional ride, then The Unforgivable is certainly worth a watch.
The most ludicrous horror movie of 2021 has finally landed on Netflix. The Spanish-language film certainly has a disturbing premise: the plot follows the characters of David (Pablo Derqui) and Sara (Marina Gatell), two strangers who wake up in a random place and slowly come to the realisation that someone has sewn their stomachs together. Neither David nor Sarah have any memory of the events leading up to their current predicament, but can they work it out – and will they escape alive?
Viewers are forced to walk through the events with the victims as they slowly recall what's happened to them, and telling the story through the eyes of just two characters in this way certainly puts body horror centre stage. If you have a strong stomach, then the movie offers an enthralling mystery that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from – but prepare yourself for a scary ride.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
With Spider-Man: No Way Home now in cinemas, now is as good a time as any to revisit Tom Holland's first solo adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Homecoming spins out of the events of Captain America: Civil War, where high school student Peter Parker became a protege of billionaire superhero Tony Stark. Dispensing with the origin story we all know off by heart, director Jon Watts drops us straight into an exciting Spidey story that sees the wisecracking wall-crawler face off against comic book foe The Vulture (played by Michael Keaton in his third bird-man role).
Indeed, the film benefits greatly from having such a complex and engaging villain at the centre of it, with Keaton's performance standing out as one of the best villainous performances the MCU has seen to date. The film also boasts fleeting appearances from Robert Downey Jr, who is charismatic as ever in his famous Iron Man role. Meanwhile, balancing out the blockbuster action sequences are quieter moments expanding on Peter's personal life, introducing friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya) and Liz (Laura Harrier), as well as Marisa Tomei in the role of his beloved Aunt May.
A treat for Marvel fans and undoubtedly one of the best Spider-Man films ever made, Homecoming kicks off what has been a glorious new era for arguably the company's most popular hero.
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.
V For Vendetta (2005)
Based on the seminal graphic novel, V For Vendetta takes us to a dystopian future where the UK has become a totalitarian state, closed off from the rest of the world which has supposedly been ravaged by a deadly virus. Residents are bombarded with vitriolic propaganda as their freedoms are gradually eroded, ultimately becoming docile and submissive to the new world order – all but V (Hugo Weaving), a mysterious masked man intent on bringing down the establishment.
Wearing a now iconic Guy Fawkes mask to disguise his identity, the revolutionary crosses paths with Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), who reluctantly agrees to aid him in his mission. It's a rollercoaster story that packs strong social commentary, visual flair and some powerful emotional moments, including a heartbreaking tale of persecution that will stick with you long after the credits roll. Purists will argue that it's not a patch on the source material – and that may be true – but it's a gripping watch nonetheless.
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.
Prior to 2019 the DC Extended Universe films had largely been dark and gritty superhero fare, but Shazam! proved they could be just as fun and colourful as their Marvel counterparts. Shazam! follows foster child Billy Batson who is chosen to inherit superpowers from an ancient wizard, allowing him to transform into an adult with abilities such as super strength and flight. As any teenage boy with powers would do, Billy is soon bunking off school, buying beer and becoming a viral star online - but must soon learn to be responsible when the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana arrives.
Fittingly enough for a movie centered around kids, Shazam! finds the fun in superheroics, delivering humour and heart in spades without feeling forced while star Zachary Levi has charisma and enthusiasm simply bursting out of his (slightly) padded supersuit. However the film still finds room for some darker and more adult themes, effectively managing to balance tone as Billy simultaneously goes on a heartbreaking search for his biological mother. A sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in development, while Dwayne Johnson spin-off Black Adam is due out in 2022.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Very much an arthouse film, The Lighthouse initially began as an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's final uncomplete work of the same name, before evolving into its own unique period thriller. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star as two lighthouse keepers on a remote New England island in the 1890s, who attempt to maintain their sanity after a storm strands them there.
Filmed in black-and-white in a square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, it's fairly clear from the outset that The Lighthouse is not for everyone. But for those willing to try this experimental drama, they will be rewarded with less a movie and more an experience - a claustrophobic probe into the prison of the human mind, aided by terrific performances from Dafoe and Pattinson as two men who are initially struggling with isolation, hunger and alcoholism but are soon enduring so much more. It's not an easy watch - but it's very easy to declare that this is a wholly original film experience quite unlike any other.
The cinematic landscape was a very different place back in 2002, particularly in terms of superhero films - and despite the rise of several interconnected screen universes, this first Tobey Maguire effort and its sequel Spider-Man 2 remain two of the best comic book films around. While we're all familiar with Spider-Man's origin story by now, this Sam Raimi film was its first retelling on the big screen, depicting how mild-mannered teen Peter Parker (Maguire) gets bitten by a radioactive spider, falls in love with Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and becomes Spider-Man by learning that with great power comes great responsibility.
Maguire's Spider-Man may lack the quips of his successors, but it's his tender, doe-eyed Peter Parker that is the true strength of this film, and the character's earnest romance with Mary-Jane, complete with that kiss, still makes for one of the more engaging superhero love stories. Maguire is assisted by a truly chilling villain turn by Willem Dafoe - who is far scarier than the Green Goblin mask he is often lumbered under - while J.K. Simmons proved for the first time that he is the quintessential J. Jonah Jameson.
When Spider-Man: No Way Home broke trailer viewing records back in August 2021, it was partly because fans were excited for more of Tom Holland’s take on the webslinger. But it was also because they were excited by rumors of Maguire, Dafoe and more reprising their roles, showing just how enduring the legacy of this movie is – not bad for a twenty-year-old film that has since had two reboots.
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)
Ever wondered what Stranger Things would look like if it were a full-on slasher horror? The answer is probably very similar to Fear Street: Part 1: 1994, the first of a trilogy based on the classic teen horror novels by Goosebumps scribe R.L. Stine. Always one to shake up how we watch movies, Netflix has marked a streaming first by releasing the entire trilogy over a three week period, eliminating the usual years-long wait for sequels and serving a triple treat of scares all within one murderous month.
Part 1: 1994 acts as a homage to the slasher movies from the film's '90s setting, with echoes of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer complete with plenty of era-appropriate songs. While not a direct adaptation of any of Stine's novels, the film instead draws inspiration from the whole series, including the Shadyside location where a group of teenagers discover the cause of a curse that has been plaguing the area for 300 years. Appropriately enough, several Stranger Things stars appear in this nostalgic horror also - Robin actress Maya Hawke appears in a brief but key scene in Part 1, while Sadie Sink can be seen in sequel Fear Street Part 2: 1978 which is also now available.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
After similar claustrophobic creature features such as Snakes on a Plane and Train to Busan, Netflix Original Blood Red Sky has settled on vampires on a plane as their terrifying threat and transportation of choice. A phenomenal concept, this German film follows Nadja, a woman with a mysterious illness who boards a transatlantic flight with her son in hopes of finding treatment in New York. However, when a group of terrorists hijack their overnight flight, it's revealed that Nadja has no ordinary illness - and she must use her monstrous secret to save her son and the other passengers before the sun comes up.
Netflix has had a string of unique horror hits recently with the likes of Army of the Dead, Awake and the Fear Street Trilogy, and Blood Red Sky has cemented the streaming service as a fertile breeding ground for experimental and high concept horror. Surprisingly human for a film with a vampiric protagonist, amongst all the gory slasher action is a story of the lengths a mother will go to to protect her son while simultaneously doing everything she can to hide her true form from him. The Last Kingdom's Peri Baumeister stuns in the lead role as Nadja, while Graham McTavish adds another vampire outing to his filmography after voicing Dracula in Castlevania.
Rush Hour (1998)
The buddy cop genre was all the rage in the '80s and '90s - and Rush Hour remains one of the best. As you'd expect, two mismatched police officers - Jackie Chan's dedicated Detective Lee and Chris Tucker's wisecracking Detective Carter - are assigned to set aside the differences to work on a case, which this time involves rescuing the Chinese Consul's kidnapped daughter. They'll encounter a dangerous crime lord along the way - and maybe even learn a thing or two from each other...
The film that made Jackie Chan a star in the US - and also led to the creation of Rotten Tomatoes - Rush Hour does not necessarily revolutionise the buddy cop genre but arguably perfects it, resulting in one of the most entertaining and endlessly rewatchable action comedies out there. Both stars bring their respective talents to the picture - Chan's tradition of performing his own stunts famously resulted in the action star almost getting killed in one set piece, while Tucker's extensive and hilarious improvisation reportedly made editing choices rather difficult. They really don't make films like this anymore - Rush Hour remains one of the highs of the 90s action boom, with just-as-enjoyable sequel Rush Hour 2 also on the service.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
It took ten years, but cult horror hit Zombieland finally got a long-awaited sequel in 2019. Now available on Netflix, Zombieland: Double Tap sees the now expert zombie slayers Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock head to the American heartland, where they face off against not only evolved zombies and post-apocalyptic warriors, but also their own emotions as their makeshift family experiences growing pains.
Double Tap may not feel as fresh or surprising as its predecessor, but it does manage to recapture the spirit and pure joy of the original, with the zombie apocalypse once again providing the unlikely backdrop for a feel good comedy. Much of this is down to the cast - despite many of them nabbing Oscars and big franchise roles since the first film, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jessie Eisenberg and a grown up Abigail Breslin all return as an unconventional zombie-killing family, with the chemistry still there all these years later. However, they are very nearly upstaged by a few new additions - with Zoey Deutch nearly stealing the film as airhead Madison.
Shot Caller (2017)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is still known to many as the multifaceted Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, and he plays a character just as morally complex in this gritty crime thriller. Coster-Waldau stars as Jacob Harlon, a white-collar family man who is transformed into a hardened gangster after being imprisoned for a DUI incident. Gang life does not end upon release however, and he's soon forced to commit a major crime against a rival California gang.
Many of the most famous prison films focus on escape, but Shot Caller is fully preoccupied with the impact of the penal system and the impact it can have on even a seemingly moral family man. Shot Caller acts in many ways a condensed Breaking Bad, also boasting a strong central performance with Coster-Waldau absolutely pouring himself into this difficult and nuanced role as a family man who makes a terrible mistake who slowly becomes desensitised to the horrors around him. The movie belongs to the Game of Thrones alumni, but also boasts a strong supporting performance from Jon Bernthal and a tight script from director Ric Roman Waugh.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
After 2014's The Lego Movie proved to be a thoughtful, emotional and somewhat meta tribute to the classic construction toys and not just a corporate cash-grab, Warner Bros took their time with this wacky follow-up. The cleverly named The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part sees the citizens of Bricksburg under attack from DUPLO invaders, and it's soon up to Emmett to travel to the Systar system to save his friends from 'Armamageddon'.
The sequel may not quite be as fresh or fun as its predecessor, but still has creativity, humour and originality in spades, with a twist ending almost as surprising and just as emotionally satisfying as the first film. Plus it's always fun to see Batman, Gandalf and other pop culture icons in the mix just as they would be in a child's lego collection - though always with well-thought-out jokes and never as gratuitous cameos. Stars such as Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks lead the expansive voice cast - but listen out for cameos from British comedians Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding also.
It was about time the story of the suffragette movement got a star-studded adaptation on the big screen, and the stars don't get much better than the likes of Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Street. Suffragette follows young working mother Maud (Mulligan), who is galvanized into political activism by the famous Emmeline Pankhurst (Streep). Risking their jobs, homes, freedom and family, Maud and the other suffragettes must play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the fight for equality and the right to vote.
The first film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament, Suffragette tells an important and still very relevant story that angers over 100 years later. Mulligan is the standout - no mean feat in a cast including Streep - delivering a powerful and emotive performance as Maud, a role that was controversially fictitious but a fine avatar for the many working-class women who risked everything in the ongoing fight for equality. The film may struggle to show the full scope of the complex and multifaceted suffragette movement, but the film remains a sincere, compelling and mostly authentic telling of a story that should never be forgotten - with talented women both in front of and behind the camera.
With the continued improvement of CGI and special effects, it's perhaps unsurprising that a beloved IP such as Paddington got a big-screen adaptation - what is surprising, however, is just how good the finished product ended up being. Paddington, of course, follows the polite Peruvian bear as he travels to London, and is adopted by the Brown family after getting lost at Paddington station. However, the bear's misadventures in the city are soon under threat - with Nicole Kidman's taxidermist villain determined to add him to her collection.
Paddington could easily have been a soulless cash-grab relying solely on the public's affection for the classic character, but instead director Paul King has crafted a film that is an absolute delight. Retaining the humour and charm of the books but also giving the bear's story a slight 21st Century update, Paddington sneaks in a gentle message about xenophobia and fitting in for an endlessly wholesome experience that's as sweet as a bottle of marmalade.
A talented cast helps also, with James Bond star Ben Whishaw lending his voice to the famous Bear and Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as his adopted parents Mr. and Mrs. Brown. A who's who of British acting legends rounds out the cast, including the likes of Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton. A sequel starring Hugh Grant in a rare villain role is just as good and perhaps even better - and briefly held the honour of being the top film on Rotten Tomatoes - with Paddington 3 also in the works.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Arguably the biggest film of 2013, this biopic from Paul Greengrass had everyone quoting Barkhad Abdi's infamous line, "I am the captain now", for weeks on end.
Inspired by the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks as Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner whose container ship is hijacked by a group of Somali pirates. Staring down the barrel of a gun, Phillips must stay calm whilst trying to take back control of his vessel.
An edge-of-your-seat drama that received six Oscar nominations, Captain Phillips is an artful telling of an extraordinary story, featuring impressive performances from both Tom Banks and break-out star Barkhad Abdi.
Army of the Dead (2021)
It's been a busy year for Zack Snyder – first, he finally got to release his long-awaited cut of the Justice League movie, and now he's made his first film for Netflix in the shape of zombie thriller Army of the Dead. It was in this genre that the director first made his name with his 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, and this is largely a successful return for Synder – an imperfect film perhaps, but one with enough gore and new ideas to keep horror fans happy. The film is set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, following a group of surviving mercenaries as they prepare for a daring heist, and it overcomes its slight tonal imbalance to deliver a compelling piece of cinema with a likeable ensemble cast and some excellently executed horror moments.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
The directorial debut of Mike Rianda, this animated family film boasts The Lego Movie's Phil Lord and Christopher Miller among its producers and has already been singled out as one of the best feature animations of recent years. Telling the story of a dysfunctional family who suddenly find themselves tasked with staving off a robot uprising during a road trip, the film packs plenty of visual gags, stellar voice performances, and playful comments on the nature of technology into its runtime. Above all, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is supremely entertaining and should pretty much guarantee some big laughs for the whole family.
Love and Monsters (2021)
This enjoyable adventure film was an unlikely Oscar nominee – in the best visual effects category – and has proved to be a big success since arriving on the streamer in April. The film concerns Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) and his dangerous attempts to reach his high school sweetheart seven years after they were separated at the outset of the 'Monsterpocalypse'. As is to be expected by the title, his journey is not without danger – and Joel must fight off all manner of monsters if he is to truly reconnect with his love interest. This is an unpretentious family-friendly romp that provides two hours of excellent escapist fun.
Elisabeth Moss turns in a fine performance in this fictionalised biopic of legendary horror fiction writer Shirley Jackson – one of the best new films of 2020. Taking inspiration from the work of Jackson herself, this is a dark, sometimes unnerving film that works as much as a psychological thriller as a traditional biopic . It tells the story of Fred and Rose Nemser, a newlywed couple who are taken in by Jackson and her husband – eventually providing inspiration for the writer's latest book.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Everyone has a different favourite Quentin Tarantino film, but this gloriously violent World War Two tale will feature near the top of a lot of people's lists. Starring Brad Pitt as a lieutenant leadining a troop of righteously vengeful Jewish-American soliders, and an Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz as the chilling Nazi villain Hans Landa, the film is electric throughout – from the unberably tense opening scene to the immensely cathartic conclusion. Complete with plenty of Tarantino's trademark dialogue and a handful of perfectly constructed set pieces – including one of the most suspenseful card games ever seen on film – this two and a half hour epic is the writer/director at the very top of his game.
Few films have had a bigger impact on cinema history than Steve Spielberg's masterpiece, which along with Star Wars: A New Hope two years later helped to usher in the blockbuster era in American filmmaking. Almost fifty years later, it's still easy to see why audiences flocked to see the film in their millions in the summer of 1975 – with brilliant characters, an iconic score, and a wonderfully suspenseful plot, the film still very much holds up as a bonafide classic.
A 'spiritual sequel' to this '90s horror classic is on the way from director Nia Da Costa and producer Jordan Peele later in 2021, so now is a great time to catch up with the original – which recently arrived on Netflix. The supernatural chiller tells of graduate student Helen who becomes obsessed with the myth of the fearsome Candyman – and soon gets drawn into a horrifying series of murders. Terrifying and intelligently executed, the film expertly blends the gore of a great slasher movie with some potent social commentary.
This superb sci-fi flick was deservedly nominated for best picture at the Oscars, and is easily one of the best American films from the last few years. Director Denis Villeneuve has gone on to helm sci-fi films on a slightly grander scale in Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune adaptation - but this slightly more intimate affair remains the Canadian director’s most beguiling movie to date. Based on a short story by Ted Chiang and boasting a remarkable performance from Amy Adams, Arrival focuses on the sudden appearance of mysterious spacecraft in twelve seemingly unrelated parts of the world, each housing bizarre aliens called Heptapods.
Thunder Force (2021)
This superhero comedy stars Bridesmaids' Melissa McCarthy and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as estranged friends Lydia and Emily living in a world terrorised by supervillains. When Lydia accidentally imbues herself with amazing abilities, the two must reconcile to become the first superhero duo and save Chicago from villain The King (Bobby Cannavale). Featuring Jason Bateman, Melissa Ponzio, Kevin Dunn and Pom Klementieff, this Netflix blockbuster makes for a fun Friday night watch.
Netflix has turned a lot of heads with its latest documentary, which explores the terrible damage that humans have inflicted on the ocean and its inhabitants. You'll learn new and alarming information about the environmental impact of plastic, fishing equipment and techniques such as bottom-trawling, as well as the consequences this poses for the entire planet. Seaspiracy has been hailed for providing vital information on an often overlooked topic, with many viewers deciding to give up seafood altogether after learning the ugly truth about its source.
The most-watched film on Netflix when it was released, this psychological thriller from Searching director Aneesh Chaganty stars Kiera Allen as Chloe, a Chicago-based teenager who's been confined to a wheelchair as long as she remembers and home schooled by her protective mother Diane (Sarah Paulson). However, when Chloe picks up on her mother's strange behaviour and starts prying into private letters she's kept hidden away, she starts to suspect Diane has been keeping a very dark secret all this time.
A suspenseful drama featuring a terrific performance from Paulson, Run is a gripping watch with a constantly changing pace.
With Dreamworks juggernaut Shrek turning 20 this year, there couldn't be a more perfect time for the 2001 animated comedy to arrive on Netflix.
Shrek stars Wayne's World's Mike Myers as the titular green ogre who's solitary swamp life is interrupted when all of fairy-tale creatures of nearby kingdom Duloc are exiled to Shrek's territory by ruler Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). After begrudgingly teaming up with a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek is challenged with rescuing Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who's been imprisoned in a castle tower since childhood – although the rescue mission doesn't turn out to be a straight-forward as he thought it would be.
Featuring a star-studded vocal cast, a non-stop parade of jokes and a funny take on some fairytale classics, it's no surprise that Shrek became one of the highest-grossing animated films at the box office in 2001 and spawned various sequels, a musical and even a rollercoaster ride at Universal Studios.
School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black turns in one of his most memorable performances as fraudulent substitute teacher Dewey Finn in this eminently rewatchable classic from the early 2000s – forming an unlikely bond with a class of schoolchildren after teaching them the virtues of rock and roll. Black is joined by a tremendous young cast, while Joan Cusack is also wonderful as the uptight Principal Roz Mullins – who it transpires is hiding a wilder side. The film is hilarious and heartwarming with an excellent classic rock soundtrack and some great original tunes thrown in for good measure. It's sure to keep the whole family entertained, and will almost certainly leave you humming at least one song from the soundtrack for the next few days.
Concrete Cowboy (2021)
Idris Elba and Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin lead the cast in this modern Western drama, which explores the urban African-American horse-riding culture. The film centres on Cole a rebellious 15-year-old who is sent to live with his estranged father in Philadelphia, and quickly finds himself drawn to the city's "urban cowboy" subculture, which offers him an alternative to a life of crime. The film has attracted praise from critics, especially for the performances from the two leads.
Bad Trip (2021)
Starring comedians Eric Andre (The Lion King) and Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), this hidden-camera comedy follows best friends Chris and Bud as they take a road trip from their small town in Florida to New York City so that Chris can declare his love for his high school sweetheart Maria (Michaela Conlin). However, with Bud's criminal sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish) on their tail after escaping prison, the two find themselves in a number of sticky situations as actual members of the public look on in shock.
With Bad Trip currently one of the most-watched flicks on Netflix, this 80-minute film is worth the watch for Andrew and Howery's stellar chemistry and a stand-out performance from Haddish.
Saint Frances (2020)
Released in UK cinemas during the small gap where they were allowed to reopen in Summer 2020, this charming comedy centres on an unlikely friendship that forms between a 34-year-old nanny and the six-year-old child she's been hired to watch, shortly after the former has had an abortion. Praised for both its empathy and humour, the film has been lauded as one of the best new releases of last year.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
This enjoyably sentimental comedy drama is packed to the brim with stars – with the likes of Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton all given time to shine. The film follows a group of very different women living in America's Deep South, who meet to discuss their ups and downs over the course of many years – with serious themes shining through among the humour.
Blinded by the Light (2019)
Based on writer Sarfraz Manzoor's childhood memoir Greetings from Bury Park, this charming film tells the coming-of-age story of a young Muslim man in 1980s Luton who becomes enamoured with the music of Bruce Springsteen. With a tremendous soundtrack – featuring several of The Boss' greatest tunes – and an interesting relationship between the main character and his father at the heart, the film is a brilliant and energetic crowd-pleaser.
Yes Day (2021)
This Netflix original family comedy film stars Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramirez as a normally strict mother and father who decide that for one day only, they will say yes to all of their children's requests. What follows is a whirlwind adventure around Los Angeles, that bring the family closer to each other than ever before.
American Graffiti (1973)
Although George Lucas is best known as the creator of Star Wars, his first hit film was a rather different proposition – a coming of age film set in 1960's California. Produced by his then close friend Francis Ford Coppolla, the film was released at the height of the New Hollywood era and features early performances from a couple of actors who would go on to star in huge blockbusters – including Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss.
This 1984 supernatural comedy has spawned several sequels – including an upcoming film helmed by Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman – but the first in the series remains comfortably the best of the bunch. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis star as three eccentric scientists who start a business that aims to fight evil ghosts lurking in New York City. Who ya gonna call?
Directed by Parks and Recreation's Amy Poehler, Moxie stars Hadley Robinson as Vivian, a 16-year-old student who draws inspiration from her mother's rebellious past and launches an anonymous zine, challenging the sexist behaviour at her high school. What starts off as a passion project soon sparks a school-wide revolution, with students and teachers alike banding together to support the magazine.
Featuring the likes of Josie Totah, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Ike Barinholtz and Lauren Tsai, this star-studded coming-of-age flick is a timely comedy with lots of heart.
Something Borrowed (2011)
This 2011 romcom stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Rachel, who single lawyer in New York City who finds herself falling in love and beginning a secret affair her best friend Darcy's (Kate Hudson) fiancé and her university pal Dex (Colin Egglesfield). Full of awkward moments, strained friendships and forbidden relationships, Something Borrowed is a fun flick featuring an excellent performance from John Krasinski.
Based on true events, Capone tells the story of Chicago bootlegger Al “Fonzo” Capone, at 47 years old, just after his release from an 11-year prison sentence on the grounds of ill-health. The film finds the gangster in his Miami pad, suffering from dementia and deeply disturbed by memories of his violent past – with Tom Hardy taking on the lead role.
Penguin Bloom (2020)
Based on Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive's book of the same name, Penguin Bloom stars Naomi Watts as Sam, an avid surfer who, whilst on a family holiday in Thailand, falls from a balcony and breaks her back, resulting in partial paralysis. Whilst struggling to adjust to life in a wheelchair, her three sons find an injured magpie chick and begins to form a bond with the bird, which they name Penguin.
Featuring Jacki Weaver, Rachel House and particularly strong performances from Andrew Lincoln and Watts, this 2020 drama is an uplifting tale with a lot of heart.
The first of two collaborations between director Brian de Palma and star Al Pacino, Scarface remains one of the definitive gangster movies of all time. Based on the 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same name, this updated version of the story charts the rise and (brutally violent) fall of Cuban gangster Tony Montana after he arrives as a refugee in '80s Miami. Pacino is at his bombastic best in the lead role, while there's also a memorable supporting turn from Michelle Pfeiffer and a truly iconic climatic set-piece.
Namaste Wahala (2020)
Set in Nigeria, Netflix's first Nollywood-Bollywood movie is a ground-breaking foray into world cinema for the streaming giant, and follows a cross-cultural budding romance between Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz) and Didi (Ini-Dima Okojie). But what could be a soapy love story is tempered by the xenophobia and intolerance exhibited by the couple's families.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
Based on Jenny Han’s bestselling novels, this is the third and final instalment of Netflix teen franchise To All the Boys. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo reprise their roles as high school sweethearts Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky once more, as they count down to their college acceptance (or rejection) letters.
News of the World (2021)
Tom Hanks reunites with director Paul Greengrass for the first time since the Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips in 2013 in this brand new feature – but it's a rather different affair from the pair's last collaboration. The western drama sees Hanks star as a traveling non-fiction storyteller in the post-Civil War USA, who finds an unlikely traveling companion in 10-year-old child Johanna – who had been raised by the Kiowa people as one of their own.
Feature-length documentary film Pele follows the rise of the Brazilian footballing legend as he goes from teenage prodigy to global superstar, set against the backdrop of a turbulent period in Brazilian political history. Including archive footage, brand new interviews and access to Pele himself, the film sheds new light on a player often regarded to be the best to have ever played the game.
Malcolm & Marie (2021)
Zendaya and Tenet's John David Washington star in this brand new black-and-white feature film from the creator of Euphoria, filmed during quarantine. In Malcolm & Marie, Washington plays Malcolm, an infantile up-and-coming director who returns home buoyed by the success of his film premiere and accompanied by his longterm girlfriend, Marie, a former actress who has struggled with drug addiction.
Mean Girls (2004)
Tina Fey's classic Noughties teen comedy stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady, a homeschooled American teen who grew up in Africa before joining a new school. Navigating the 'jungle' of high school cliques, she joins The Plastics, headed up by queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams). However, things take a Machiavellian turn after Cady falls for Regina's ex.
The Dig (2021)
Based on the John Preston 2007 novel, The Dig focuses on the events of the famous 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial site, and features an all-star cast with the likes of stars Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, EMMA.'s Johnny Flynn. Mulligan plays British landowner Edith Pretty, on whose property the excavation takes place.
The White Tiger (2021)
Netflix's latest original film is an adaptation of Aravind Adiga's novel of the same name, which follows the story of Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) as he attempts to escape poverty and rise to the highest levels of society. Produced by Priyanka Chopra, who also appears in a supporting role, The White Tiger has been widely praised by critics, who have been particularly impressed by its stylish direction by 99 Homes helmer Ramin Bahrani as well as the compelling performances across the board.
The Accountant (2016)
Ben Affleck's career underwent quite the resurgence after directing and starring in Best Picture winner Argo, and this 2016 action-thriller is one of his best post-comeback performances. Not the mathsy drama the title suggests, The Accountant follows Affleck's Christian Wolff, an autistic accountant who uncooks the books for criminal and terrorist organisations around the world. When the FBI takes an interest, Wolff takes on a legitimate client as cover - but soon learns the truth about a discrepancy that causes the body count to rise and puts millions of dollars at stake.
John Wick meets Good Will Hunting, The Accountant certainly delivers enough action similar to the former but also balances it well with drama exploring Wolff's autism and just enough accounting for the mathematicians out there (but definitely not too much to put the rest of us to sleep). Affleck is helped by an impressive supporting cast also - Anna Kendrick adds some subtle dry humour as the company accountant who gets sucked into his world, while J.K. Simmons nails yet another older tough-guy role as tax agent Ray King.
Les Miserables (2019)
Not to be confused with the musical – or indeed any other adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel – this tremendous film follows events unfolding over one day in a Paris suburb after France's victory in the 2018 World Cup and instantly drew comparisons with Mathieu Kassovitz iconic '90s banlieue film.
The plot centres on a young teenager who, after stealing a lion cub from a traveling circus, becomes the victim of an increasingly hardline pursuit by the Anti-Crime Squad, including uncertain new recruit Stéphane. Exploring themes of police violence, poverty and discrimination, this is a biting, incredibly relevant piece of work.
Starring Little Women star Eliza Scanlen, coming-of-age drama Babyteeth follows Milla, a 16-year-old girl recently diagnosed with cancer who falls in love with 23-year-old drug addict Moses (Toby Wallace) despite her wealthy parents' disapproval.
Featuring a stellar cast which includes Ben Mendelsohn (Captain Marvel), Essie Davis (Game of Thrones) and Emily Barclay (The Light Between Oceans), this Australian indie lives up to its award-winning reputation thanks to a heartbreaking performance from Scanlen and Shannon Murphy's delicate direction.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Netflix original film Pieces of a Woman stars The Crown's Vanessa Kirby as Martha, a pregnant young woman who suffers a traumatic home birth, leading to the death of her newborn daughter. Together with her husband (Shia LaBeouf), Martha learns to live with her unbearable grief whilst taking her midwife to court.
With a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), Molly Parker (Lost in Space) and Sarah Snook (Succession), this harrowing exploration of bereavement is undoubtedly a career high for Kirby, who delivers one of her best performances to date.
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood (2019)
A Quentin Tarantino film is always a major event, but Once Upon A Time in Hollywood even more so for the legendary pairing up of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt on screen for the first time. Dicaprio and Pitt play washed-up actor Rick and his stunt double Cliff respectively, as the two attempt to recapture fame and success in 1969 as Hollywood's Golden Age comes to an end - all while living next door to Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate.
Tarantino's extended love letter to classic Hollywood and 1960s film history may prove wearisome for some, but the director's surprising restraint over his trademark violent tendencies allows for an acting masterclass from DiCaprio and Pitt. Those who are nostalgic for retro L.A. however will be rewarded by cameos from the likes of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen and references to Great Escape and old-school westerns, all tied together by Tarantino's usual dark humour and catchy dialogue. Oh, and those hopeful for some of Tarantino's stylised violence will have their patience very much rewarded by the end...
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as the real-life “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey, opposite the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman in his final on-screen performance as the mercurial trumpeter Levee.
Based on August Wilson’s play of the same name, the action takes place during a claustrophobic recording session, in which tempers flare, truths are revealed, and jealousies named. Inspired by real-life themes from the time, you can find out more about Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom true story here.
David Fincher's first film in six years, Mank is a stylish black and white drama that reevaluates Golden Age Hollywood through the eyes of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz – known to his friends as Mank. The film specifically deals with the issue of the authorship of seminal Orson Welles film Citizen Kane, which Mank claimed he should have had the sole screenwriting credit for.
The stellar cast includes Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, and many more, and the film is already winning rave reviews from critics. It is also something of a passion project for Fincher – the script was written by his late father, Jack, and he has reportedly been trying to get the film made for more than twenty years.
Fish Tank (2009)
Andrea Arnold is one of the finest British directors working today, and her second feature film Fish Tank arguably remains the strongest entry in her impressive filmography. The film follows a volatile teenager, Mia, who lives in an East London council estate and has a fractious relationship with her mother and sister.
Over the course of the film, she becomes close to her mother's new boyfriend, Conor – played to chilling effect by Michael Fassbender – who it soon turns out is an exploitative and deeply unsavoury presence.
It's a hard-hitting slice of social realism that has at its core some truly excellent performances, with Kierston Wareing, Fassbender and newcomer Katie Jarvis all excelling in the lead roles.
Maybe not one to watch to unwind - or if you're claustrophobic - most of Oxygen takes place in a box no bigger than a coffin. The film follows a woman who wakes up in a medical cryogenic chamber with no memory of who she is or how she got there. With oxygen starting to deplete, time is running out to rebuild her shattered memories to discover who she is, and find a way out of this nightmare.
Netflix has long helped bring acclaimed foreign films to mainstream attention, and this American-French co-production is one of the latest international showcases following the likes of The Platform and Under the Shadow. Thrillers don't get more tense than this with Elizabeth's panic at being trapped in a small space terrifyingly relatable, with the very limited cast outside of flashbacks adding to the isolation. There may also be a few twists along the way...
The film features a terrific French cast - Mélanie Laurent (6 Underground) deserves the highest praise as she spends the bulk of the screentime alone, with only Mathieu Amalric's (Quantum of Solace) robotic M.I.L.O. for company.
This coming of age film from director Sarah Gavron was created in collaboration with the cast, and the result is one of the most moving, lively, and original British films for quite some time. The film has an incredible amount of heart, capturing the experiences of its young protagonists living in London in an incredible manner.
At its centre is a group of wonderful young actors, many of whom are making their screen debuts, and they all give exceptional performances, with lead star Bukky Bakray and supporting character Kosar Ali, in particular, standing out for their charisma and chemistry. A must watch for all film fans.
His House (2020)
Filmmaker Remi Weekes expertly blends kitchen-sink realism with more supernatural haunted house elements in this stunning debut feature which boasts incredible performances from Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku.
His House follows a couple who flee war-torn South Sudan and travel to the UK to seek asylum – tragically losing their daughter in the process. After being held in a detention centre, the couple are eventually provided with a dilapidated house to stay in by caseworker Mark (Matt Smith). But they soon find that a witch has followed them from their home, while they also have to deal with prejudice from unwelcoming neighbours.
This brand new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel of the same name stars Lily James as a young woman who agrees to marry wealthy English widower, George Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) and moves into his Cornwall mansion – the beautiful Manderley estate.
The new Mrs de Winter soon finds that her life is made increasingly difficult by Manderley's formidable housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who remains devoted to de Winter's now-deceased first wife, Rebecca. Full of dramatic twists and turns, the faithful adaptation of Rebecca is perfect for fans of gothic romance.
Before he helmed the pop culture phenomenon that was Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler's first venture into franchise filmmaking was this successful update of the Rocky series. Starring a then-rising star Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed's son Adonis, Creed flips the formula on its head by having Rocky as the mentor to the up-and-coming boxer, with Stallone stepping out of the ring for the first time as he passes the torch to a new generation.
There are plenty of callbacks to the original films for those partial to a bit of nostalgia - those iconic steps make an appearance of course - but the film wisely is more interested in exploring Adonis as he wrestles with his late father's legacy and discovers what it means to be his own man. He's helped by Sylvester Stallone on top acting form, who wrote all of his iconic character's dialogue and was rewarded with a Best Actor Oscar nomination - a nod he also got for Rocky forty years earlier. Tessa Thompson rounds out this talented trio of actors, playing love and interest and singer-songwriter Bianca.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
John Hughes was the master of coming-of-age films, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off is up there with The Breakfast Club as one of his best films. Despite being made in the 80s, the movie has a timeless premise - a school slacker wants to bunk off school for a day, and uses ingenious measures to ensure his parents and principal never find out.
Endlessly parodied and referenced - as well as popularising a certain catchy song - Ferris Bueller's Day Off managed to capture a fleeting moment in young people's lives and share a pretty powerful message among all the schoolboy antics. The film is full of '80s stars, as not only is it one of Matthew Broderick's most famous roles but Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey also plays his on-screen sister Jeanie while Charlie Sheen can also be seen in one of his early film roles. Ferris Bueller's Day Off also boasts an early use of a post-credit scene before they featured in every Marvel movie - something Deadpool paid homage to during its own self-referential after-credit teaser.
Florence Pugh may now be a certified member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to her role as Yelena Belova in Black Widow, but it was this 2019 horror hit that helped put the young star on the radar. Forget the brightly coloured flowers and pleasant imagery seen in many of the promotional materials - Midsommar's choice of a summer festival setting rather than a traditional haunted house only serves to make events even creepier. One of the few cult films actually about a cult, the film follows a couple on the verge of breaking up who visit a fabled mid-summer festival in Sweden, only for the celebration to spiral into a violent and bizarre affair thanks to a pagan cult.
Director Ari Aster followed up his well-received Hereditary with this equally acclaimed horror, promising bright things ahead for both the genre and Aster himself. Aster knows how to pick a great cast too - following Toni Colette's critically acclaimed turn in Hereditary, Pugh too was praised for her unsettling performance in Midsommar, supported by great co-stars including Jack Reynor (Sing Street), William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) and Will Poulter (Black Mirror).
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Already binge-watched both The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor in the run-up to Halloween? Have no fear (or rather, do), as it turns out there's a spooky film offering by director Mike Flanagan, and it's available on Netflix right now: Gerald's Game.
Based on Stephen King's book of the same name, this psychological horror flick stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as a married couple who attempt to spice things up while holidaying in a remote house - only for husband Gerald to have a heart attack and die while his wife, Jessie, is still handcuffed to the bed and unable to free herself.
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 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 The Forty-Year-Old Version 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 has 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, I'm Thinking of Ending Things 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).
Chicken Run (2000)
Aardman Animation has built up a reputation for consistently churning out high-quality stop-motion showcases, and outside of the phenomenally popular Wallace and Gromit series Chicken Run may well be their most successful. The highest-grossing stop-motion film of all time, Chicken Run follows the inhabitants of a chicken farm who see a chance to escape when rooster Rocky seemingly flies into their pen. They implore Rocky to teach them how to fly - before Mrs. Tweedy's pie machine is ready...
Aardman Animation's trademark sharp humour and attention to detail are on full display here, with several visual gags hidden within some of the painstakingly crafted frames. The film's critical acclaim also led to the introduction of Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, as well as leading to future feature films from Aardman such as Flushed Away, the Shaun the Sheep movies and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The stop-motion hit has arrived on Netflix ahead of the belated Chicken Run sequel, which is being made in collaboration with the streaming service.
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 should have been recognised during the 2021 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).
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.
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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 in the 2020 awards season.
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