7th May 2024

The 25 best movies on Netflix US

Relying on his years of experience, Film Critics Guild member and Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic Akhil Arora picks out the best movies available on Netflix.

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December, one of the best movies on Netflix
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December // Photo: Netflix

“What are the best movies on Netflix”? You’ve no doubt asked yourself that question in the past. In fact, you probably did ask it just a few minutes back, which is how you’ve ended up here. For good reason. With nearly 3,500 films to choose from on the most popular streaming platform, it can be a daunting task. On top of that, it doesn’t help that Netflix forces you to browse through its arbitrary side-scrolling catalogue, provides no way to sort through what’s on offer, and constantly prioritizes original movies over much better choices. Thankfully, I’m here to help you out. I’ve scanned through the best of the best to figure out what’s worth your time. I’ll be updating this regularly as new films are added and removed to ensure that all the titles mentioned below are still available on Netflix.

How I picked the best movies on Netflix

The recommendations below are derived from my own experience—I’ve seen every film on the list below. (I’ve been my friends’ go-to guy to ask what to watch for a decade, and I’ve been reviewing movies and TV series for the past eight years.) The films here are a mix of my personal tastes and an ongoing study of cinema around the world. In the case of titles that I truly love, I’ve made a little note to convey just that. There’s something here for everyone, I believe, spanning genres such as drama, comedy, action, sci-fi, war, thriller, and beyond.

I’ve also noted down the runtimes to help you quickly figure out whether you’ve got time to finish the film tonight or should save it for another evening. So, let’s stop wasting your time and jump into what you came to find. These are the best 25 movies available on Netflix in the United States.


Year: 1984
Runtime: 3 hours
Director: Miloš Forman
Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce

This endlessly captivating “biopic” chronicles a bitter fellow composer’s jealousy of Mozart who did everything he strived for effortlessly. Just don’t watch it to learn about the acclaimed composer’s life, for what’s shown is entirely fictional. Boasting stellar costumes and production design—the sets are enthralling—it’s a hilarious examination of the curse of mediocrity most of us are saddled with. Winner of eight Oscars, including Best Picture.

Watch Amadeus on Netflix

Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver
Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver // Photo: Sony Pictures

Baby Driver

Year: 2017
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm

Stylish, smart, and full of exciting stunts executed with extreme precision, this is an action thriller operating as a musical. As young getaway driver Baby (Elgort) syncs his driving to foot-tapping songs while preparing for a heist doomed to fail, the killer soundtrack will have you rocking to every beat. The sheer energy of the film hooks and propels you through the twisting narrative.

Watch Baby Driver on Netflix

Beasts of No Nation

Year: 2015
Runtime: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah

Elba delivers a towering performance as a manipulative warlord during a raging civil war in a fictional West African nation. The film is a bleak and brutal study of the hellish child soldier experience—Attah’s descent into madness is startling—with the lush visuals of nature’s abundance providing a stark contrast to the ugly life suffered by many.

Watch Beasts of No Nation on Netflix

Boyz n the Hood

Year: 1991
Runtime: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Director: John Singleton
Cast: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne

Authentic to the core—Singleton grew up in south-central Los Angeles, the area the film is set in—this is a film that never uses violence to preach but to mark the tragedy. As teenager Tre’s (Gooding Jr.) friends succumb to the gang activities around them, Fishburne’s father feels like the lone flickering flame in a world overrun with despair.

Watch Boyz n the Hood on Netflix

(from right) Aditya Modak and Arun Dravid in The Disciple
(from right) Aditya Modak and Arun Dravid in The Disciple // Photo: Netflix

The Disciple

Year: 2020
Runtime: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Director: Chaitanya Tamhane
Cast: Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid

In some sense a deconstruction of the much-popularized rule that 10,000 hours of practice leads to perfection, The Disciple finds a classical music vocalist (Modak) questioning his years of choices and the instructions he’s been asked to live by. It’s meditative, highly attuned, and quietly devastating as it drills into the life pursued and the life lived.

Watch The Disciple on Netflix

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan

At once a film about the split between a mother and daughter, a zany and mind-bending laugh-out-loud action riot, and (partly) a riff on its lead star’s extensive career, Everything Everywhere All at Once serves its title very well. But don’t worry, there’s no overcrowding. The directing duo handle this tale of an immigrant family with heart and sensitivity while serving up genre fare of maximum variety. Winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.

Watch Everything Everywhere All at Once on Netflix

The Imitation Game

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

Set aside the fact that it’s wildly inaccurate with respect to the historical record, this is a well-made thriller powered by a stellar Cumberbatch performance as famed mathematician Alan Turing who helped decrypt Nazi intelligence codes but was later persecuted by his own government for his sexuality. Winner of the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Watch The Imitation Game on Netflix

Robert De Niro in The Irishman
Robert De Niro in The Irishman // Photo: Netflix

The Irishman

Year: 2019
Runtime: 3 hours, 29 minutes
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

With his decades of experience, the master of mob dramas turns ruminative with The Irishman, looking back on the characters he created and the stories he told. It’s almost course correction of sorts, with an octogenarian former hitman (De Niro) reflecting on the life of crime he lived and expressing regret over the choices he made along the way. Sure, it’s indulgent and overlong—but it goes down easier when you’ve scene-chewing stars like Pacino and Pesci.

Watch The Irishman on Netflix

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

Year: 2003–04
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes and 2 hours, 17 minutes
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, David Carradine, Michael Madsen

Crafted as a single piece but divided into two parts for theatrical consideration, Tarantino’s homage to samurai cinema, martial arts films, and spaghetti Westerns blends them all into one. As a bride and former assassin (Thurman) vows revenge on those who tried to kill her and her unborn child, we are treated to stylistic action, nail-biting tension, and odes of black humour.

Watch Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 on Netflix

L.A. Confidential

Year: 1997
Runtime: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce

Leaving May 31

Many films noir have tried to replicate the charms of Chinatown, but few have come as close. This is a thriller at its finest, serving up twists and turns with delectable pleasure, as three police officers—one sordid (Spacey), one brutal (Crowe), and one moralistic (Pearce)—form the unlikeliest of alliances to tackle a series of murders in post-World War II Los Angeles.

Watch L.A. Confidential on Netflix

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper // Photo: Sony Pictures


Year: 2012
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt

Bursting with heart and violence, this dark twisty sci-fi thriller delivers the mind-boggling possibilities of time travel, paired with two terrific performances playing the same guy—an assassin—by Willis and Gordon-Levitt. The ending is so neat and well thought out that you’ve to marvel at how Johnson figures out the perfect closed loop, in turn reflecting on the story’s own bleak principles.

Watch Looper on Netflix

The Lost Daughter

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cast: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson

A haunting, confrontational and deeply felt exploration of motherhood—or rather, the taboo parts that are rarely discussed—this debut feature from actor-turned-director Gyllenhaal contains three fine performances. In it, a middle-aged professor (Colman) visits seaside Greece on a holiday, where she’s drawn to a young mother (Johnson) and begins reflecting on her troubled past.

Watch The Lost Daughter on Netflix

Marriage Story

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern

Tender, heartfelt, and unwilling to take sides, this exploration of a couple (Johansson and Driver, who are excellent) going through a divorce pulls you through the full emotional spectrum. It’s full of tiny touching moments (the opening montage is a beauty) that fill you with joy and laughter. At the same time, it’s devastating how petty bitterness builds and takes over, even when it’s the last thing you would’ve ever wanted. One of my favorite films of all time, let alone one of the best movies on Netflix.

Watch Marriage Story on Netflix

Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix
Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix // Photo: Warner Bros.

The Matrix

Year: 1999
Runtime: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Directors: The Wachowskis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Propulsive, engaging, and a terrific ride from start to finish, the Wachowskis brought together their myriad influences to deliver what is now a touchstone in action filmmaking. As a computer hacker (Reeves) is recruited for a seemingly insurmountable mission, we are treated to thrilling fights, mesmerizing cinematography, and a rocking soundtrack. One of my favorite movies of all time, it leaves me on a high every time I rewatch it.

Watch The Matrix on Netflix

May December

Year: 2023
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton

Staged like a self-serious examination of a family that made it despite a scandal, but self-aware enough to bite into why audiences are drawn to such lurid pleasures, this darkly humorous film follows a method actor (Portman) who inserts herself into the life of an unusual couple and crosses any number of lines in the garb of researching the character.

Watch May December on Netflix


Year: 2020
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim

In what is a family drama that works as a director reflecting on—and grappling with—his own childhood, a South Korean immigrant (Yeun) moves his family from California to a tiny Arkansas farm where they battle challenges upon challenges. With wonderful, nuanced direction and acting, this quiet movie leaves a lasting impact.

Watch Minari on Netflix

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball, one of the best movies on Netflix
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball // Photo: Sony Pictures


Year: 2011
Runtime: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

You don’t need to know anything about baseball to enjoy this true story. (Well, minus all the changes.) In it, a team manager (Pitt), who’s got a limited budget, works with a Yale graduate (Hill) to build a squad based almost entirely on statistical analysis. Moneyball transcends the joys of a sports movie—it’s fresh, it’s smart, and it has Pitt operating at peak power.

Watch Moneyball on Netflix

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Year: 1975
Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

Some movies make you laugh and some make you laugh until it hurts. This one—from the legendary British comedy troupe—belongs in the latter category. There were times I had to pause the film so I could gather myself and watch without tears in my eyes. Irreverent and absurdist, it remains a leading contender for the best comedy of all time decades later.

Watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Netflix


Year: 2003
Runtime: 2 hours
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jung

Celebrated for its brilliant corridor fight sequence, this bloody, sadistic, violent movie has a lot more to offer. Its tale crawls under your skin, as a man who’s been imprisoned for 15 years in a hotel room (Choi) navigates the complex web laid out by his former captor, leading to a chilling and eerie discovery. Be warned—it’s not for everyone.

Watch Oldboy on Netflix

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, one of the best movies on Netflix
Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread // Photo: Universal Pictures

Phantom Thread

Year: 2017
Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

A renowned and controlling dressmaker (Day-Lewis) in post-World War II London, who is used to women coming and going through his meticulously tailored life, meets his match in a young and determined waitress (Krieps). As the two push and pull, we get a darkly funny romance about a woman subduing a man who is too used to the perfect seam.

Watch Phantom Thread on Netflix


Year: 2018
Runtime: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira

The film that kicked off a wave of directors telling stories about their childhoods, Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical rendition of his upbringing is full of empathy but also quietly devastating. Against the backdrop of political turmoil in Mexico—the fact that all men in this film eschew their responsibilities says a lot—it follows two women, a live-in maid (Aparicio) and a mother of four kids (de Tavira), who are doing their best to hold on.

Watch Roma on Netflix

Society of the Snow

Year: 2023
Runtime: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Director: J. A. Bayona
Cast: Enzo Vogrincic, Matías Recalt, Agustín Pardella

There are parts to this that can be a hard watch—it’s based on the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team that was stranded in the Andes for two and a half months after a plane crash—but it’s a remarkably gritty film that doesn’t squander itself to trauma porn territory. With deep questions of faith, survival, and brotherhood, it leaves you to answer what makes us human.

Watch Society of the Snow on Netflix

Shameik Moore as Spider-Man/Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Shameik Moore as Spider-Man/Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse // Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Year: 2023
Runtime: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry

It cannot hold a candle to the first one (the chaotic and fresh Into the Spide-Verse) and its half-finished nature is highly unsatisfying. But the sequel to the Oscar-winning original still delivers a whole load of excitement and it ramps up the film’s adult quotient, as our hero Miles Morales (Moore) is pushed to take on a bigger role—and challenge—across the multiverse.

Watch Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse on Netflix

System Crasher

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2 hours
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Cast: Helena Zengel, Albrecht Schuch

Zengel plays a nine-year-old troubled girl with exceptional nuance and variety, switching from a caring self who’s clearly eager to make progress and be part of a family to violently lashing out and letting all hell loose as she struggles to undo her childhood trauma in real-time. Both funny and upsetting, this debut feature from Fingscheidt shows a direction with a keen eye for detail and small moments.

Watch System Crasher on Netflix

The Two Popes

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce

For the respective roles of Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis, you can’t find two better senior actors than Hopkins and Pryce to bounce off each other. As they unpack faith, tradition, their personal regrets, and the role of the Catholic Church, there emerges an unlikely friendship (and some laughs). There are no attempts to preach religion here—it advocates for forgiveness and to reach out across the aisle, something we could all use in our increasingly polarized world.

Watch The Two Popes on Netflix

What are the best movies on Netflix, according to you? Tell me in the comments below!

Akhil Arora

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