If you’re looking for the best movies to watch on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve put together an expertly curated selection of some of the most exciting, compelling, emotional and funny movies currently streaming right now.
While it can be daunting thumbing through the streamer’s catalog to find out what to watch, we’ve taken the guesswork and mindless scrolling out of it. This post will be frequently updated with new recommendations, keeping you up to date with all the Netflix movies you should be prioritizing in your queue.
So peruse our list of the best movies on Netflix right now below, and happy watching!
Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic “Gladiator” took the Oscars by storm, winning Best Picture and Best Actor among others, and it still holds up as a tremendously exciting historical drama. Set in 180 AD, Russell Crowe stars as a Hispano-Roman general who is betrayed and forced into hiding following the murder of his family. He finds himself conscripted to become a gladiator, fighting to the death for the amusement of audiences, and eventually makes his way back to Rome where he comes face to face with the emperor who betrayed him. Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, and Djimon Hounsou round out a terrific ensemble cast.
War of the Worlds
Steven Spielberg’s 2004 adaptation of “War of the Worlds” is not just an alien invasion film – it is very much a film about 9/11. Spielberg framed the story of alien invaders as his commentary on 9/11, and the fallout afterwards. The film is told entirely from the point of view of a single father (played by Tom Cruise) watching his kids, and the audience never sees anything they don’t see. It’s a masterful chronicle of panic and confusion, and the lengths to which people will go to keep themselves and their loved ones safe in the face of impending danger.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
If you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy with a bit of an R-rated edge, check out “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Jason Segel wrote and stars in the film as a man who’s just been dumped by his TV star girlfriend (played by Kristen Bell) and decides to go to Hawaii to get away… only to run into her and her new rock star boyfriend (played by Russell Brand) staying at the same hotel. Produced by Judd Apatow, the film is a swell mix of raunchy humor and genuine heart, and also stars Mila Kunis and Jonah Hill.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy
With the animated “Spider-Verse” all the rage, now’s a good time to revisit Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” trilogy. The 2002 film is one of the most influential comic book adaptations of all time, as Raimi’s colorful yet grounded approach to Peter Parker’s journey laid the foundation for innumerable superhero movies to come. “Spider-Man 2” is one of the best sequels ever made, as the stakes increase on both a physical and emotional level for Peter. And “Spider-Man 3”… well… that one’s an optional watch, but it does have its moments.
The Wolf of Wall Street
You’ve seen the memes, now watch the actual film. Director Martin Scorsese’s 2013 epic “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a searing indictment of greed and capitalism as it charts the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his best performances. At nearly three hours in length this dark comedy certainly gives you bang for your buck, but in addition to being hilarious it’s also a masterfully constructed look at toxic wealth culture. Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal and more also make up the film’s A-list ensemble.
The Addams Family
Celebrate Spooky Season all year-round with Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1991 film “The Addams Family.” Based on the classic sitcom, the film finds long-lost Uncle Fester resurfacing after disappearing ages ago, only it turns out this Fester (played by Christopher Lloyd) may be an imposter. Sonnenfeld wisely leans into the silliness of the story, bringing a slightly heightened reality to the piece that accentuates the dark comedy. Plus the casting of Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia and Christina Ricci is impeccable. This one’s a lot of fun for the whole family, assuming your family can handle slightly dark material.
Brad Pitt goes full goof mode in “Bullet Train,” which makes excellent use of his comedic sensibilities and movie star aesthetic. Directed by Pitt’s former stunt man David Leitch (who also directed “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2”), the film follows an assassin going through something of a mental breakdown who is tasked with retrieving a briefcase on a bullet train in Japan. Easy enough, right? Well, the train is full of assassins, and Pitt’s character soon learns he’s in way over his head. Standout performances from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree-Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, Joey King and (REDACTED) ensue. Plus, cameos galore.
Call Me by Your Name
The film that really put Timothee Chalamet on the map, “Call Me by Your Name” is one of the most deeply felt love stories ever put to screen. Filmmaker Luca Guadagnino transports the viewer to a time and place, yes, but also exudes the feeling of lust, love and possibility throughout. Chalamet plays a 17-year-old vacationing with his family in Italy in 1983 who strikes up a romantic relationship with a 24-year-old grad student (played by Armie Hammer). The soundtrack features two original songs by Sufjan Stevens, and the supporting performance by Michael Stuhlbarg is outstanding.
One of the best crime films ever made, “Heat” influenced a generation of filmmakers (and served as the direct inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”). Michael Mann’s 1995 crime epic takes place in Los Angeles and finds Al Pacino playing an LAPD detective hot on the tail of a professional criminal, played by Robert De Niro. Pacino and De Niro only share two scenes together but they’re positively electric, and the film boasts one of the most iconic shootouts ever put to screen.
This Is the End
When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the screenwriters behind “Superbad,” set out to make their directorial debut, few could have predicted something as meta and outrageously funny as “This Is the End.” The film is an apocalyptic comedy set in Los Angeles that’s anchored by a friendship – oh and the actors are all playing versions of themselves. Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel are the centerpiece as the duo’s strained friendship gets put to the test when the world ends, and they’re trapped at James Franco’s house alongside Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and more cameos than you can shake a stick at. The finale is aces.
You simply must, must, must watch “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” if you enjoy things like “fun” and “comedy.” This “Knives Out” sequel (once again written and directed by Rian Johnson) is a brand new mystery, with Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc as the only returning character from the original film. This time, he’s invited to a secluded island by a tech billionaire (played by Edward Norton), who has gathered a group of his closest friends – played by Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monae – in Greece to play an elaborate murder mystery game. To say more would spoil the surprises, but suffice it to say this is just as thrilling, hilarious and surprising as the first “Knives Out” and you’ll want to watch it again immediately once it’s over.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Guillermo del Toro’s first stop-motion feature film is as emotional as you’d expect, and this is “Pinocchio” like you’ve never seen the story before. Co-written and directed by del Toro, this adaptation features the voices of Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Burn Gorman, Cate Blanchett, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Perlman and Tilda Swinton and offers up a fantastical twist on the Carlo Collodi Italian classic. Emotional and awe-inspiring in equal measure, and set against the backdrop of fascist Italy, this is a gorgeous work of art.
If it’s hard-boiled thrillers you’re looking for, “Prisoners” is a pretty taut (and handsomely crafted) entry in the genre. Directed by Denis Villeneuve of “Arrival” and “Dune” fame, the film stars Hugh Jackman as a man whose daughter is abducted and decides to take matters into his own hands when he identifies a suspicious suspect (played by Paul Dano). Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective trying to crack the case, but this one’s less about plot and more about the toll the case takes on these individuals, with an all-star cast rounded out by Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo. It also features stellar cinematography by Roger Deakins and a haunting score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Where the Crawdads Sing
The highly anticipated Delia Owens adaptation is newly streaming on Netflix this month, in case you didn’t get a chase to see “Where the Crawdads Sing” in theaters when it was initially released this summer. The murder mystery thriller stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya, a woman who has raised herself to adulthood in the North Carolina marshland. But when a man ends up dead and questions surround Kya’s involvement, she must face her past in traumatic fashion. The film was a box office success, grossing $140 million against a budget of just $24 million, and also stars Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson and Garret Dillahunt. Bonus: There’s an original Taylor Swift song in it too.
The Nice Guys
“The Nice Guys” is so good, it will make you mad you didn’t see it in a theater when it first came out. This 1970s-set noir comedy from filmmaker Shane Black stars Ryan Gosling as a private investigator and Russell Crowe as a gruff enforcer who are forced to team up to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl (played by Margaret Qualley). Gosling and Crowe’s chemistry is absolutely dynamite, and Black demonstrates his knack for two-handers that he previously perfected on “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” And not for nothing, but Gosling delivers one of the best comedic performances of the century here. Seriously, give it a whirl. You won’t regret it.
The first film to ever earn a woman an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography, 2017’s “Mudbound” is a moving and compelling historical drama. Directed by Dee Rees and shot by Rachel Morrison, the film follows two World War II veterans as they return home to Mississippi, one white and one Black. Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund and Mary J. Blige anchor the terrific ensemble cast as the film tackles race relations in the past with a direct line to our present, packed with rich and complex characters.
While “The Master” may be filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson at his most serious, “Phantom Thread” is him at his most playful. The acerbic romance stars Daniel Day-Lewis in his final onscreen role before his retirement and is set in 1954 London. Day-Lewis stars as a famous fashion designer who takes his meticulous process seriously. But when he strikes up a relationship with a waitress, his routine starts to get shaken up, and he must consider the impact said relationship will have on his work. This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s version of a twisted romantic drama, and the film is surprisingly funny.
The Power of the Dog
Writer/director Jane Campion’s 2021 drama “The Power of the Dog” is a powerful and surprising film about, among other things, family. Set in 1925 Montana, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons play a pair of brothers whose strained relationship is pushed to the limit when Plemons marries a widowed single mother (played by Kirsten Dunst) on a whim, and brings her son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) to live with them on their ranch. The performances are top-notch all around, as Campion crafts a complex and tension-filled character-centric drama that’s certainly one of 2021’s best films.
tick, tick… BOOM!
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with the Netflix musical “tick, tick… BOOM!,” based on the autobiographical stage musical by “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson. Andrew Garfield plays Larson, who is on the cusp of turning 30 and has yet to have a masterpiece staged on Broadway. As he puts the finishing touches on his sci-fi rock epic, he grapples with his own anxieties, his crumbling relationship with his girlfriend, and the impending AIDS epidemic that’s taking his friends far too quickly. The songs are incredible and the direction is inspired, but Garfield’s electric and soulful performance makes this a must-watch.
This one might come with a “For Cinephiles Only” warning, but if that describes you there’s much to love in David Fincher’s 2020 film “Mank.” Gary Oldman stars as Hollywood writer Herman J. Mankiewicz as the film chronicles his experience writing the screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” all while flashing back to events from his life that inspired certain characters and themes in what many consider to be the greatest film ever made. Fincher presents the film entirely in black-and-white (it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography), and Amanda Seyfried gives a terrific performance as Marion Davies while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compose a surprising original score.
Kathryn Hahn has made a career out of scene-stealing supporting performances, but she takes center stage in writer/director Tamara Jenkins’ 2018 dramedy “Private Life.” Inspired by Jenkins’ own experience, Hahn and Paul Giamatti star as a middle-aged New York City couple struggling through infertility who decide to try and have a child through IVF. The film follows the ups and downs of infertility in heartbreaking detail, while also finding moments of humor throughout that ring true to life. Hahn and Giamatti are spectacular together, as they also chronicle how their journey strains their marriage.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This Western anthology from the Coen Brothers is a delightful romp that builds to a shockingly emotional conclusion. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is made up of six different stories set in the Old West, each featuring different characters. Themes of mortality, morality and justice are prevalent throughout “Buster Scruggs” just as they are through the Coens’ other films, but this time all against a wonderful, slightly exaggerated Western backdrop. The stellar cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach 2019’s drama “Marriage Story” is, ultimately, a divorce story, but it’s so richly drawn and beautifully acted that you’ll find your own heart breaking as you watch the conscious uncoupling of a pair played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. This is far from a mean-spirited or even depressing film. Instead, while it does indeed chronicle the dissolution of a relationship (inspired by Baumbach’s own life) and how the divorce impacts their young son, “Marriage Story” smartly always keeps an eye on one very important fact: while these two individuals may be splitting up, that doesn’t mean the love they once had for each other wasn’t real. Driver and Johansson are terrific, and Laura Dern is a scene-stealer in her Oscar-winning supporting turn.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can enjoy, the 2021 Netflix original “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is an emotional crowd-pleaser that’s as funny as it is inventive. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the film follows a family going on a cross-country road trip to send their eldest daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to college, where she hopes to learn how to become a filmmaker. The family isn’t on the best terms when the road trip begins, which makes things even trickier when a robot uprising occurs, leaving the dysfunctional Mitchells as humanity’s last hope. This is a hilarious, colorful and heartfelt story about the importance of communication.
Netflix has a wide variety of documentaries to choose from, but Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film “13th” is a must-watch. The doc delves into mass incarceration in the United States, and how race and injustice intersect with the issue, through the prism of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolishes slavery except as punishment for a crime. Through a number of interviews, DuVernay examines why a disproportionate number of Black people are incarcerated in the U.S., and how the current justice system perpetuates this injustice.
One of the great things about Netflix is how it has a little bit of something for everyone, and in that vein, the YA-skewing “Enola Holmes” is a delight for the teenaged crowd (and beyond). Based on the young adult series of the same name by author Nancy Springer, the film stars Millie Bobby Brown as the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola leaves the safety of her home compound and ventures into London to try and solve this mystery. Along the way, however, Enola learns that her mother kept many secrets of her own. This is a rollicking mystery-adventure that’s also a sweet and substantial coming-of-age story, all wrapped up in a gorgeous 19th century Victorian package.
Set It Up
If you’re into romantic comedies, you simply must check out “Set It Up.” This Netflix original is a throwback in the best way, as Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell have that Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks chemistry in a story about friends turning into lovers. They play overworked assistants to demanding bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) and hatch a plan to set their bosses up in an effort to earn more free time themselves. But their scheming puts them in frequent close contact, during which sparks fly.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before Taika Waititi took audiences by storm with “Thor: Ragnarok” and won an Oscar with “Jojo Rabbit,” he crafted a wonderfully whimsical comedy called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” The film stars Julian Dennison as a troubled youth who goes on the run with a cantankerous man (played by Sam Neill) when both are being hunted through a remote part of Australia. The film is packed with Waititi’s signature sense of humor and unique style, and Dennison and Neill make for one heck of a dynamic duo.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
The Netflix original comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is not just an incredibly funny film, it’s a surprisingly emotional one too. Based on an original idea by Will Ferrell, the “Elf” actor stars as one half of an Icelandic duo alongside Rachel McAdams, both of whom are thrust into the spotlight when they’re unexpectedly selected to compete in the international singing competition Eurovision. The film is packed with some genuinely great songs, and a sweet story about staying true to your roots in the face of immense growth.
The Fear Street Trilogy
Everyone loves a good scare, but the “Fear Street” trilogy gives you three times the thrills for the price of one overarching story. These three interconnected films trace the origins of a witch’s curse on a small town, covering events in 1994 in the “Scream”-inspired first film, then heading back to 1978 for the summer camp slasher sequel, before concluding in the year 1666 for the third and final feature that reveals the origin story of the Shadyside witch. Colorful, fun and genuinely scary, the “Fear Street” trilogy tells a truly epic horror story.
The Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is full of surprises. While the film begins by chronicling Swift’s career, complete with the ups and downs it encompassed, it soon morphs into the origin story of a feminist as Swift begins to speak out on socio-political issues important to her. It’s a fascinating window into the management of fame, as some around her caution against making any kinds of political statements for fear of alienating her fanbase. Swift is honest throughout – or as honest as a documentary like this can be – and the film doesn’t shy away from tough moments like Kanye West infamously interrupting her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour-and-40-minute gangster epic “The Irishman” is best viewed in one sitting – trust me. The brilliance of the film is in its construction, as Scorsese charts the career of a hitman for the mob from the 1950s up to the present day. But unlike the bombast of “Goodfellas,” this is a film where regret and grief hang over nearly every frame, subtly building until the mournful third act hits you like a ton of bricks. Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran spends his entire life killing people, and what does it all add up to? Scorsese gets downright philosophical with questions of morality and mortality, crafting a self-reflexive film about what it means to come to the end of your life and look back on what you’ve done, why you did it and whether it was all worth it in the end.
Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a great comedic talent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his best dramatic acting chops thus far are exemplified in the 2013 film “Rush.” Directed by Ron Howard, this biographical sports drama stars Hemsworth as British Formula 1 driver James Hunt and chronicles his 1970s rivalry with Austrian driver Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl). The racing scenes are absolutely thrilling, and the story lays bare these drivers’ determination while also delving into what drives each of them to compete.
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror movie, but it’s a great watch for Spooky Season (or any time of year) regardless. Guillermo del Toro’s original story is a Gothic romance through and through, as Mia Wasikowska stars as a budding author living in 1900s New York who marries a kind yet mysterious man (Tom Hiddleston) and then moves into the decrepit mansion he shares with his sister (Jessica Chastain). When she arrives at the mansion, however, Wasikowska’s character discovers it’s full of secrets and ghosts. While the film is creepy, it’s not a full-on scare-fest – nor is it trying to be one. This is a sorrowful, ghastly story of love and what happens when our past won’t let go.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee is not known for making bland films, and indeed his 2020 Vietnam veterans drama “Da 5 Bloods” is confrontational in the best way. The story revolves around four aging Vietnam War veterans who return to the Southeast Asian country to search for the remains of their fallen leader — and also a trove of buried treasure. Along the way they confront their own fears and differences, as Lee’s film delves into how America left an entire generation of soldiers behind.
Netflix is host to a ton of great documentaries, including “Crip Camp.” This Oscar-nominated 2020 film begins by showcasing archival footage from a camp in the 1970s that was created for teens with disabilities, before then following various individuals as they fought for disability rights. It’s a moving portrait of activism that shows just how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we have left to go.